Sexual Assault Awareness Month
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Sex crimes against people with disabilities often go unrecognized. People with disabilities are sexually assaulted at nearly three times the rate of people without disabilities.
Disability Rights California believes no one should face sexual abuse. DRC’s Investigations Unit has investigated horrendous incidents of sexual abuse and pushed for reform to ensure these assaults are promptly reported and investigated. In 2010, issued an advisory to every law enforcement agency in the state, reminding them about the increased risk of sexual assault for individuals with disabilities and challenging the bias that people with developmental disabilities and cognitive impairments are not reliable reporters of abuse. DRC called for law enforcement agencies to follow Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) guidelines for sexual assault investigations.
Our client Donna lived at the Sonoma Developmental Center for five years. While there, staff assigned to care for her sexually abused her for nine or ten months. Donna was afraid to report the abuse because she did not think anyone would believe her. However, she did something to help her case. She saved sheets, her pants and underwear as evidence. This lead to the staffs’ conviction. Her self-advocacy helped bring abuse issues to light at the developmental center.
We helped Donna leave the developmental center and move into the community. Donna participated in transition planning and now lives in her own home. Donna has staff to help her, but she makes her own decisions. She plans her days, something she never did at the developmental center. She spends her time, like most people living in the community, on daily activities. She shops, watches TV, goes to the gym, rides her bike, and cooks her meals. Because of our assistance, Donna is enjoying life.