Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, & the Disability Community

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Did you know that people with disabilities are four times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than people without disabilities? 

People with disabilities are at high risk to be victims of crimes like sexual assault and domestic violence. These crimes are often not recognized, not reported, and not punished. This means that the abuser may be able to hurt people again. When these crimes are reported by people with disabilities, the police are less likely to respond to them than they are to reports made by people without disabilities.

Through this resource, we hope to raise awareness about some of the causes of the high risk in the disability community and to let you know about help that is available in Kansas.

The Disability & Aging Crime Victims Unit (DACVU) is a program of the Disability Rights Center of Kansas (DRC). The DACVU helps people with disabilities who have been victims of a crime. Our team understands the unique ways that sexual assault and domestic violence impact people with disabilities.

Our team understands how these crimes affect people with disabilities. We are here to help you understand your rights and get the resources you need to heal. If you have experienced sexual assault or domestic violence and would like to know how we can help, please call us and ask for a member of the Disability & Aging Crime Victims Unit at 877-776-1541.

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is when someone does something sexual to you that you didn't agree to or give permission for. This can include touching or other sexual acts that you don't want. Any nonconsensual sexual act, including when the victim cannot consent, is sexual assault. This can happen even if you know the person who did it, like a friend, partner, family member, or caregiver. You don't have to say "no" or fight back for it to be sexual assault. Some people can't fight back. If you didn't want sexual contact or attention and didn't agree to it, it was sexual assault. It is not your fault.

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is when someone hurts you or controls you in a relationship. Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive and coercive behavior. Domestic violence is used to get power and control in a relationship. Someone in your family, someone you live with, or a partner in the past or present can be abusive in a relationship.

People with disabilities can be more vulnerable to abuse than people without disabilities. Sometimes, abusers take advantage of a person's disability to control them. They might threaten to harm a service animal or take away essential medications. They might damage or remove things that help someone with a disability, like their assistive technology. People with communication disabilities might rely on their abuser to talk to others, making getting help hard. People with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) are especially at risk.

Why are people with disabilities more likely to become victims of sexual assault or domestic violence?

  • People with disabilities are more likely to have difficulty reporting an assault. Speech impediments, underdeveloped speech, the need for interpreters, the inability to speak, or other communication barriers can make reporting hard.
  • People with disabilities may depend on others for care, making them vulnerable to abuse.
  • People with specific disabilities may be more easily controlled and isolated by their abusers.
  • Trauma-informed interpreters are often hard to find.
  • Victims with disabilities may not be believed or understood or be afraid to report abuse.
  • People with disabilities may be taught to be compliant and not say no, making them more vulnerable to abuse.
  • People with disabilities often have many people in their lives, such as caregivers, social workers, or therapists, whom they are expected to trust.
  • People with disabilities may be more susceptible to their abuser's manipulation tactics.
  • Accessing help, such as the police or court, can be difficult for people with disabilities who don't know how to ask for accommodations.
  • Court documents and police reports can be confusing for people with specific disabilities.
  • Safe shelters may not have the necessary accessibility resources to protect victims with disabilities.

Resource for Victims and Survivors with Disabilities in Kansas:

Kansas Coalition Against Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence

Kansas Coalition against Sexual and Domestic Violence (KCSDV)

Statistics & Sources:

Bureau of Justice Statistics 2017-2019

  • In 2019, the rate of violent victimization against persons with a disability was nearly 4X the rate for persons without a disability.
  • People with multiple disabilities are more frequently victims of rape and sexual assault compared to victims with only one form of disability.

Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) Published November 2021

  • 2017-2019 The rate of violent victimization against persons with disabilities (46.2 per 1,000 age 12 or older) was almost four times the rate for persons without disabilities (12.3 per 1,000).
  • Persons with cognitive disabilities had the highest rate of violent victimization (83.3 per 1,000) among the disability types measured.
  • Nineteen percent of rapes or sexual assaults against persons with disabilities were reported to police, compared to 36% of those against persons without disabilities.

— Originally published 7/5/21. Last updated 4/24/23.

This grant project is supported by subgrant number 24-VOCA-56 awarded through the Federal Office for Victims of Crime as administered by the Kansas Governor’s Grants Program. The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication, program, or exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of the Kansas Governor or the U.S. Department of Justice.

Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, & the Disability Community