Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Assault: 

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Support and Information Line 403–237–5888


Alberta's One Line for Sexual Violence 1–866–403–8000
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Mythbusting Monday: It’s unusual for people with disabilities to be sexually assaulted.

A recent case in Lethbridge shows that this simply isn’t true. In fact, studies show that people with disabilities are at least 1.5 times more likely to be sexually abused than those without disabilities (Canadian Council on Social Development, 1988). The reasons for this are fairly straightforward – people with disabilities are often more vulnerable than abled people, because many need to rely on caregivers to help them perform routine tasks.  Additionally, society tends to place a lower value on people with disabilities, and they are often ignored or not believed if they do disclose abuse.

Many think people with developmental disabilities, need to be taught about sexual boundaries in order to prevent them from being victimized by sexual assault – essentially giving responsibility for any assault to the victim. Sexual assault is about the abuse of power and control by the perpetrator: it does not happen because victims permit the activity, and it does not happen because victims initiate the activity. It happens because other people take advantage of their vulnerable state.

It is not the responsibility of vulnerable people to prevent sexual assault happening, but the responsibility of those who have power over them to ensure they do not offend against them, and to allow them a safe space to express when they feel violated or uncomfortable.

Often it can be difficult for people with disabilities to report sexual assault. Some have challenges communicating, and many are not taught the proper language to express what has happened. This is because they are viewed by society at large as being asexual and not needing to understand the ins and outs of what consensual sexual activity is all about. Yet even without the language, people with disabilities can be deeply, deeply affected by any abuse of their bodies, and, like everyone else, have the right to have power and control over, and to make choices about their bodies.

The truth is sexual abuse and sexual assault has a powerful impact on the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health of every survivor, regardless of ability.

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