California’s protection & advocacy system
For legal assistance call 800-776-5746. For all other purposes call 916-504-5800 in Northern CA
or 213-213-8000 in Southern CA. TTY 800-719-5798.
Adopted 4/15/2005; Amended 3/7/2015; Amended 3/24/2017
Individuals with disabilities are at a disproportionately higher risk for abuse, neglect, and criminal victimization. Estimates are that people with disabilities are least four to ten times more likely to be victimized than people without disabilities. Individuals with an intellectual impairment are at the highest risk of victimization. Most individuals with disabilities are victimized by people they know, often individuals who have a relationship with them specifically because of the victim’s disabilities (e.g., care providers and service attendants).
Abuse and neglect of dependent adults and elders is a crime. Yet studies show that most crimes against people with disabilities go unreported. Victims with disabilities frequently rely on others to identify and report suspected abuse or neglect. Incidents of abuse and neglect are often handled as employment matters rather than crimes and not referred to law enforcement. Prompt reporting and investigation of suspected or alleged abuse or neglect is essential to protect victims and to successfully prosecute and convict perpetrators.
Absent a criminal conviction, there is no system to track care providers who have been abusive to or negligent toward individuals with disabilities under their care. Since few incidents of abuse or neglect are prosecuted, criminal background checks alone are insufficient to track abusive care providers.
Licensing boards may conduct investigations into misconduct of licensed care staff (physicians, nurses, therapists, CNAs); however there is no requirement that substantiated incidents of abuse or neglect be referred to licensing boards, and frequently they are not. Information regarding disciplinary action taken by licensing boards is not necessarily accessible to the public. There is no tracking system of substantiated complaints against unlicensed care providers.
Law enforcement and others in the abuse response system often lack the training and skills to interact with and interview individuals with disabilities. There are often critical delays in the response of investigators to reports of abuse, neglect, and criminal victimization. Criminal investigations are not thorough and often produce insufficient evidence for criminal prosecution. Disability-related bias and stigma may include assumptions that individuals with disabilities are unreliable or not credible and will not make good witnesses, resulting in failure to timely and thoroughly interview the victim or witnesses with disabilities, if at all. Many investigations into instances of abuse and neglect go on for months or years, and some are never completed. Cases that make it into the criminal justice system are not rigorously prosecuted; assailants are frequently given lighter sentences or plead to lesser crimes.
There is no reliable statewide system in California that documents the frequency of abuse, neglect, or criminal victimization of individuals with disabilities. Without accurate, specific, publicly-available data, there is no means of quantifying the extent of the problem, isolating specific gaps in the abuse response system, or ensuring that individuals and entities have fulfilled their obligations.
- Document the incidences of crimes, abuse and neglect against people with disabilities, and the outcome of investigations, including prosecution and conviction;
- Track abusive care providers;
- Identify areas of significant need for systemic reform;
- Guide systemic reform; and
- Evaluate the outcomes of interventions and reform initiatives.
This data, if not publicly available, should be made available to Disability Rights California pursuant to Disability Rights California’s abuse and neglect mandate.
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LEGISLATION & PUBLIC INFORMATION UNIT
1831 K Street, Sacramento, CA 95811
Tel: 916.504.5800 - TTY: 916.719.5798