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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Disability and Abuse Project Report Finds Rampant Abuse, Flawed Response Systems

Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied 2012 Protest SignSource: Disability and Abuse Project

The Disability and Abuse Project has released a report that gives low grades to state and local agencies for failing to respond adequately to widespread abuse of children and adults with disabilities.

The Report, “Abuse of People with Disabilities: Victims and Their Families Speak Out”, analyzes the results of what may be the largest survey of its kind in the nation. More than 7,200 people took the survey, which inquired into the experiences of people with disabilities as victims of abuse and bullying. Family members, advocates, service providers and various types of professionals also responded.

Over 70% of people with disabilities said they had been victims of abuse. More than 50% of these victims had experienced physical abuse, with some 41% having been victims of sexual abuse. Nearly 9 of 10 respondents with disabilities had suffered verbal or emotional abuse. Most victims said they had experienced abuse on more than 20 occasions.

About half of the incidents of abuse were not reported to authorities. When reports were filed, fewer than 10% of alleged perpetrators were arrested.

Only one-third of victims received therapy and fewer than 5% received benefits from victim compensation programs. 

“Abuse of people with disabilities is a hidden epidemic with a huge number of invisible victims,” said Jim Stream, Executive Director of The Arc of Riverside County, an agency providing services to people with intellectual disabilities.

“The findings from the report are an indictment our entire criminal justice system,” said Alice Vachss, Special Prosecutor for Sex Crimes in Lincoln County, Oregon.

The report and its recommendations will be discussed at the National Center for Victims of Crime conference on September 9 in Phoenix, Arizona. The report also will be featured at a conference on violence jointly sponsored by the American Bar Association and American Psychological Association in Washington D.C. on October 3.

“Lawyers and judges must do a better job of providing equal justice to victims who have disabilities even though it may require working harder or becoming better educated on how to handle such difficult cases,” said Thomas F. Coleman. Coleman, an attorney, is the principal author of the report.

Access to the data, findings, and recommendations of the report.


  1. Michael Garritson who abused a severely disabled autistic man. When the parents reported the crime where this pig was caught on tape abusing the autistic man, the legal and disabled system urned on the disabled man…..f^%$ this system. Don’t even bother to report abuse of your disabled child.There is no justice for disabled.

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