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Crime Victims with Developmental Disabilities: Report of a Workshop

NCJ Number
Date Published
103 pages

This book presents information on crimes against people with developmental disabilities.


Studies from the United States, Canada, Australia, and Great Britain consistently find high rates of violence and abuse affecting people with disabilities - such as mental retardation, autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and severe learning disabilities. This condition may worsen considerably over the next several years due to the increased prevalence of developmental disabilities in low-income populations and the deinstitutionalization and new legislation that puts many such people in unsafe community settings. Because of the different definitions of disability, the population with disabilities is difficult to identify, and their victimization is difficult to measure. Disability under six categories helps account for differences in definition across the different domains. These are the medical model, the educational model, the legal model, the entitlement model, the cultural model, and the integrated model. These models are not mutually exclusive. Currently, the two national crime statistics systems in the United States do not identify those with disabilities. But review of available literature concluded as a conservative estimate that people with developmental disabilities are four to ten times more likely to be victims of crimes than other people are. They face abnormally high risks of physical and sexual assault and abuse. Potential mechanisms that may contribute to the increased risk of violence and abuse for people with disabilities include the counter-control model, the ecological model, victim-related factors, and environmental factors. No existing survey can be adapted to provide estimates of disability-specific victimization. Interview methods must use items designed specifically for the subpopulation with developmental disabilities, use proxy responses only as a last resort, and use interview prompts in a manner guaranteed to produce responses of known validity. Many people with developmental disabilities are ill equipped to cope with the criminal justice system. Enhancing this capacity requires that agencies, family members, and advocates develop support mechanisms for them. Barriers to treatment for disabled crime victims include inadequately trained mental health providers, few abuse awareness educational programs, and physical inaccessibility to agencies, organizations, and courts. 144 references, appendix

Date Published: January 1, 2001