Disabled & Abused

Physical and sexual abuse are more commonly perpetuated upon disabled

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Disabled and mentally and intellectually impaired children are more likely to be on the receiving end of abuse than non-disabled children. Awareness and action are needed for prevention efforts.

A recent review looked at several databases to find out the rates of abuse in the disabled children population.

The review showed that disabled children were at four times the risk for violent or sexual assault than non-disabled children.

"Report suspicions of abuse to the police immediately."

Dr. Mark Bellis, director of the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University, was the lead researcher. In collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Bellis compiled data for two separate reviews that suggest the abuse of disabled children and adults has been underreported.

There are at least 93 million children in the world with a moderate or severe disability. The second review searched records in 12 electronic databases from 1990 to 2010. A final 17 studies were pulled from 10,663 in the database for analysis. Violence was found in 27 percent of cases studied.

Children with disabilities are nearly four times more likely than non-disabled children to be abused.

Physically disabled children are nearly three times more likely than non-disabled children to be sexually abused. Mental or intellectual impairments increase the risk to nearly 5 times the likelihood.

Adults with physical disabilities were nearly twice as likely to be abused than non-disabled adults. Adults with mental or intellectual impairments were nearly four times as likely to experience abuse.

The report lists contributing factors to this increased probability for violence as discrimination, ignorance, stigma and inability to report incidence. Rates of violent abuse were increased in institutional settings.

Dr. Bellis said, “The impact of a child’s disability on their quality of life is very much dependent on the way other individuals treat them. This research establishes that the risk of violence to children with disabilities is routinely three to four times higher than that to non-disabled children.”

“It is the duty of the government and civil society to ensure that such victimization is exposed and prevented.”

Dr. Etienne Krug, director of WHO’s Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability, said, “The results of these reviews prove that people with disabilities are disproportionately vulnerable to violence, and their needs have been neglected for far too long.”

“We know that specific strategies exist to prevent violence and mitigate its consequences. We now need to determine if these also work for children and adults with disabilities. An agenda needs to be set for action.”

Further research will be needed to determine the state of unreported acts of abuse.

This study was published in the July issue of The Lancet. Funding for this study was provided by the WHO Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 18, 2012
Last Updated:
January 8, 2013