Special Needs Sexual Abuse

Pittsburgh Lawyers Taking on Sexual Abuse of Disabled People

If Someone Has Taken Advantage of You or a Loved One Sexually, You Deserve Justice

Anyone with a disability faces a harder path in life than those who are fully abled. Our society has not been built to accommodate those who are different. When it comes to abuse, especially sexual abuse, systems sometimes seem to work against justice. Often, police will refuse to even prosecute sexual abuse cases in which the accuser has a cognitive or physical disability. The person who is suffering from mistreatment has no chance for justice or closure, and their abuser is free to continue assaulting others.

We understand that those who live with disabilities are especially susceptible to sexual assault. Many factors come together to create situations where abuse thrives and reporting is hard, if not impossible, for those in this position. Our attorneys want to help. We have been representing the victims of sexual abuse for many years. Your story deserves to be told.

If you want to fight for justice, we are on your side. Contact our team at (844) 383-0565 for your free and confidential consultation.

The Pervasive Abuse of People with Disabilities

Over the past few years, we have been having a societal reckoning with the prevalence of sexual harassment and abuse in our institutions. Terrible crimes have been committed and many victims’ lives ruined. Among disabled people, especially those with intellectual disabilities, the rates of sexual violence are even higher.

The “official” numbers of disabled adults and children who face abuse are almost certainly low, as many victims either choose to not talk about what happened or are prevented from doing so. Even with this underreporting, the rates of abuse are alarming.

  • Women in institutions experience abuse at a rate of 33% when they are disabled vs. 21% when they are abled.
  • Among men who acquired a disability at some point in their life, 55% reported experiencing physical abuse of some type after becoming disabled.
  • Over the course of their adult lives, 26–90% of disabled women and 29–87% of men experience interpersonal violence.

Those with intellectual disabilities have a higher risk even than those with physical disabilities. Nearly 90% of cognitively (or developmentally) disabled women are sexually assaulted at least once in their lifetime.

Is There a Path to Justice?

Though so many people with disabilities are abused, very few are able to receive any sort of justice. Many obstacles stand between them and a successful court verdict.

Reporting Is Nearly Impossible

Among disabled people, sexual abuse is typically perpetrated by someone known to the victim. RAINN found that among this community:

  • 33% of abusers are family members
  • 33% of abusers are friends/acquaintances
  • 25% of abusers are caregivers

This leaves only 9% of abuse perpetrated by strangers. However, reporting someone you know may be more difficult than blowing the whistle on a stranger. First, when relying on someone for support—as those with disabilities often do—accusing them threatens your well-being. Being removed from their care might be a positive, but it could also leave you without a home. If your claims aren’t believed, you face the threat of retaliation.

People with disabilities are also more likely to be cut off from society at large due to a lack of accessible venues and widespread bias against them. They may not have contact with anyone to whom they can report sexual violence. With no way to fight back, they have no choice but to endure the abuse.

Believability Is Questioned

Given the difficulty many abled people have convincing the court system (and the public) to believe their stories, it’s no surprise that those with disabilities have it worse in this arena as well.

If you, as a disabled victim of sexual assault, do manage to make a report, society is less likely to believe you because of the widespread misconception that people with disabilities do not have sexual needs, desires, or capabilities. Things others take for granted, like access to a counselor trained to help someone like you, often aren’t available.

Abusers may use their victim’s disability against them—it’s easier to manipulate those with intellectual disabilities to the point where they have trouble giving convincing testimony. Perhaps because of this, police and prosecutors believe such cases won’t win in court and therefore decline to even try them. Having your message discounted in this way can be emotionally painful and discouraging.

We Want to Help You Win

Abusers, especially those who purposefully target vulnerable populations, should not be allowed to avoid all responsibility. Where the criminal justice system won’t help you, our attorneys are ready to step up. Filing a case in civil court may help you see your abuser punished. You may also receive justice in the form of compensation.

Sexual abuse can have many long-lasting effects, and you deserve the best help possible. With a financial safety net, you might be able to become independent from abusive households or institutions. You won’t be forced to accept help from a predator when you have the resources to find a kind and respectful caregiver.

It’s time to fight for justice. Call our Pittsburgh lawyers at (844) 383-0565 or reach out to our team online. If you can’t come to us, we will come to you.

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