A Guide for Child Protective Services Staff - Protecting Children with Disabilities from Abuse and Neglect

A Guide for Child Protective Services Staff - Protecting Children with Disabilities from Abuse and Neglect

Authors

  • Scott J. Modell, Ph.D., Deputy Commissioner, Department of Children’s Services, State of Tennessee
  • Marcie Davis, M.S., Director, Underserved Populations, New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, Inc.
  • Carla Aaron, M.S.S.W., Executive Director, Office of Child Safety, Department of Children’s Services, State of Tennessee
  • Irma Buchanan, M.S.S.W., Director of Investigations, Office of Child Safety, Department of Children’s Services, State of Tennessee

In 2011, the average annual rate of violent victimization for children with disabilities was more than twice the rate among children without disabilities. Serious violent victimization for children with disabilities was more than three times than that for children without disabilities (Truman & Planty, 2012). In the U.S., victimization is increasing for individuals with disabilities. Average annual rates from 2009-2011 tell a story. Children with intellectual disabilities had the highest rate of violent victimization from 2009 to 2011.

Among children with intellectual disabilities, the average annual rate of serious violent victimization doubled from 2009 to 2011. The average annual rate of serious violent victimization against individuals with self-care disabilities more than tripled from 2009 to 2011. The average annual rate of serious violent victimization against individuals with multiple disability types was double compared to individuals with one disability type (a net result of four times the victimization than persons without disabilities) (Harrell, 2011; Harrell, 2012). Data meta-analysis (Spencer et al., 2005; Sullivan
& Knutson, 2000) indicates that children with intellectual disabilities are:

  • 2.9 - 3.7 times as likely to have been neglected
  • 3.4 - 3.8 times as likely to be emotionally abused
  • 3.8 - 5.3 times as likely to be physically abused
  • 4.0 - 6.4 times as likely to be sexually abused

Almost fifty percent of people with developmental disabilities who are victims of sexual abuse will experience 10 or more abusive incidents (Valenti-Hein & Schwartz, 1995). According to a study involving the sexual abuse of persons with disabilities, almost eighty percent were sexually assaulted on more than one occasion and fifty percent of those experienced more than 10 victimizations (Sobsey, & Doe, 1991). People with disabilities are more likely to experience severe abuse over longer durations with multiple incidences and multiple abusers (Schaller & Fieberg, 1998; Young et al.,
1997). 

Child abuse normally occurs in the framework of a relationship between a child and an adult, or when the adult is a caregiver. Abuse or neglect is more likely to occur if the child and the caregiver exhibit certain risk factors. If there is a lack of protective factors to intervene with the risk factors present in their lives, then that family is at a greater risk of child abuse.

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