Sexual Abuse Among Individuals With Disabilities

Sexual Abuse Among Individuals With Disabilities

Sandamita Choudhury (MIND India, India) and Sangeeta Goswami (MIND India, India)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3958-2.ch013
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The chapter addresses the concept of sexual abuse among individual with disabilities across lifespan, barriers to reporting of sexual abuse, its impact on the psychological and physical health, characteristics of perpetuators of sexual abuse, importance of family in prevention and protection of individuals with disability.
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Defining Sexual Abuse

“Sexual abuse” is addressed by different terms such as “sexual exploitation”, “sexual violence” or “sexual assault”. Different theorists defined it in varied ways. Sexual abuse is referred to as “bad touch with little or no emphasis on the sexual nature of the abuse.” Children may not be aware about that the physical action associated with “bad” touch is bad (Sandra, 1995). Sexual abuse or assault is any unwanted act (verbal and/or physical), which violates a person’s trust and/or safety, and is sexual in nature which includes but is not limited to rape, sexual penetration (digital, penile, or foreign objects), oral / genital contact, indecent exposure for the purpose of sexual gratification of the offender, incest, fondling for the purpose of sexual gratification of the offender, sexual exploitation/manipulation, coercing or forcing someone to participate in, or be exposed to a pornography and/or sexual behavior. (Kaufman et al., 2003). Sexual abuse is similar to sexual assault, but the difference lies in the “pattern” as sexual assault constitutes a single episode whereas sexual abuse is ongoing (Davis, 2009)

According to World Health Organization (2002), Sexual violence is “any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work.” Sexual contact becomes assault when a person is unable to consent to an activity, does not consent, and/or when a service provider engages in sexual contact with a client. Adults with disabilities who have been sexually assaulted may have experienced sexual assault/abuse as an adult or they may be adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

Child Sexual Abuse

Childhood sexual abuse is a subtype of physical abuse defined as sexual contact between an adult and a child under the age of 18 years of age in which the child is used for sexual gratification. A parental figure who allows sexual contact with a child is also a sexual offender (Green, 1995)

Features that characterize child sexual abuse include:

  • Physical force/violence is very rarely used; rather the perpetrator tries to manipulate the child’s trust and hide the abuse.

  • The perpetrator is typically a known and trusted caregiver.

  • Child sexual abuse often occurs over many weeks or even years.

  • The sexual abuse of children frequently occurs as repeated episodes that become more invasive with time. Perpetrators usually engage the child in a gradual process of sexualizing the relationship over time (i.e. grooming).

  • Incest/intrafamilial abuse account for about one third of all child sexual abuse cases (WHO, 2003)

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