Persons with Different Abilities
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 SAPAC recognizes 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. Furthermore, a survivor may be confused by the violence if it is perpetrated by a caregiver or family member who may also do nice, appropriate things for the survivor.
▪ Because the perpetrators of abuse towards people with disabilities are often caregivers, a survivor may fear being punished by his/her caregiver for speaking out. A survivor may also fear a loss of services if s/he reports the caregiver, or may fear that a new caregiver might do something even worse.
▪ People with disabilities are often patronized, and are therefore often not taken seriously if they report a sexual assault. Additionally, a survivor may fear disbelief and may therefore choose not to report the assault at all.
▪ Because people with disabilities are often stereotyped as not being sexual, a survivor may have difficulty having his/her report taken seriously.
▪ A survivor with a cognitive disability might lack the vocabulary to explain what has happened.
▪ A survivor with a disability may be isolated, and may therefore not have a strong support network of family and friends to seek help from.
▪ A survivor with a disability may have counselors who have not been trained in the issues specific to survivors with disabilities, or who are uncomfortable having a client with a disability. Some survivors may also face counseling buildings that are not accessible to survivors with some physical disabilities.