Women’s Center

22 Upper College Road, Kingston, RI 02881


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Sexual Assault & Persons with Different Abilities

People with disabilities are common victims of sexual violence because of the fact that they are often placed in positions in which people without disabilities have power over them, whether that is physical or institutionalized power. This power imbalance may both cause perpetrators to target people with disabilities, and may make it more difficult for people with disabilities to receive services after an assault. Survivors with disabilities face many of the same barriers to seeking help that survivors without disabilities do, but there are also a range of issues that are unique to survivors with disabilities. Some examples are listed below, but it is recognized that each individual and each assault is unique. A survivor with a disability may not face all of these barriers, and may also face barriers not listed here.

  • ·         Those who perpetrate sexual violence against people with disabilities often socialize their victims to believe that the abuse is normal and acceptable. Victims may grow up not understanding the difference between appropriate and inappropriate sexual behavior.
  • ·         A survivor may be confused by the violence if it is perpetrated by a caregiver or family member who may also do nice or appropriate things for the survivor.
  • ·         Fear of being punished by his/her caregiver for speaking out, fear a loss of services, or fear that a new caregiver may do something even worse.
  • ·         People with disabilities are often patronized and therefore are often not taken seriously, which could deter a victim from reporting the crime.
  • ·         Stereotypes about people with disabilities not being sexual could also keep a victim from speaking out.
  • ·         Survivors with disabilities might be isolated and not have a support system to seek help from.
  • ·         Survivors with disabilities might only have access to counselors who are not trained to help people with disabilities or not have accessible buildings.

All survivors deserve compassionate and competent care. The University will make every effort to accommodate survivors with disabilities.


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