Sexual Assault and Survivors with Disabilities

Work by Cara Boim

Sexual Assault and Survivors with Disabilities

Trigger warnings: Sexual assault, graphic description of rape

“People with intellectual disabilities are sexually assaulted at a rate 7x higher than those without disabilities.” – NPR

Pauline sitting at a table working on a jigsaw puzzle

Pauline’s Story

Listen to 5:43 through 10:20 of NPR audio

Pauline smiling standing next to a bed in a bedroom

Maryann’s Story

Listen to 4:02 through 8:11 of the NPR audio

Maryann and her sister Cathy McIvor smiling sitting at a restaurant booth

Maryann smiling and standing in front of a dresser

For people with intellectual disabilities, the perpetrator is a stranger less than 14% of the time

Hooded backpacker walking on a dark road in the rain looking back at the camera ominously

Why are people with disabilities more vulnerable to sexual assault?

Why are people with intellectual disabilities and physical disabilities vulnerable in different ways?

Why are people with intellectual disabilities 7x more likely to be sexually assaulted?

  • Nonverbal or underdeveloped speech
  • Taught to be compliant
  • Infantilized
    • Lack of sex-ed
    • Taught to trust, that everyone is a “friend”
  • Don’t display “typical” victim behavior
  • People don’t believe them for a number of other reasons

People with disabilities are 2x more likely to be a victim than those without a disability.

People who reported having more than one disability were 60% of rape or sexual assault victims.

group of teens with disabilities having fun in a park


Trigger Warnings: Sexual assault

Smart Bracelet that can “detect” assault

  • Senses orientation of wearer – standing up vs. lying down
  • Reads vital signs
  • Hands-free activation
  • Sends coordinates of user and message to emergency contacts and police via Bluetooth
  • Emits a loud beeping and red strobe lights
  • Could also be used for elderly or folks with disabilities
  • What are the issues with this technology in the context of sexual assault?

women sitting at a conference table with the smart bracelet deviceSmart bracelet device, looks like a neon pink bracelet adorned with pearls, wires trail out the back of the device

Risk Reduction vs Primary Prevention

  • Targeted towards potential victims
  • When a person is held responsible for their safety and is told to know how to protect themselves (personal safety)
  • Focus on the potential perpetrator
    • Cultural shift
  • Attempts to intervene in the behaviors of a potential perpetrator before sexual assault occurs







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