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Deaf Abuse:

Child/Adult Abuse & Neglect Disability Outreach Project (CAN DO Project)
Arc Riverside Abuse Projects Division

2100 Sawtelle Blvd. #302, Los Angeles, CA 90025
 Phone:  (310) 473 6768 STS/TTY: Use Relay System  FAX: (310) 996 5585

How does abuse effect individuals with disabilities,
including Deaf and Hard of Hearing children and adults?

Children and adults with all types of disability experience abuse at rates far exceeding those of the population who do not have disabilities. Although research is not extensive, what we have learned about abuse of children and adults with disabilities is alarming. In addition, there are many situations in which children and adults acquire disabilities as a direct result of abuse.

Children with disabilities are abused 3.4 times more often than other children. Boystown University Hospital conducted a study to identify prevalence of disabilities among maltreated versus nonmaltreated children. Researchers merged over 39,000 hospital records from 1982 to 1992 with the social service central registry, the foster care review board and police records for both intra and extra familial maltreatment. This merger resulted in 6,000 matches, an overall maltreatment prevalence rate of 15 percent, with 64% having an identified disability. Obviously, this is much higher than the 15-20% prevalence rate of individuals with disabilities in the population. Published in 2000, the study found of maltreated children the following disability identifications:

Behavior disorders 38%
Speech/language disorders 9%
Mental retardation 6%
Hearing impairment 6%
Learning disability 6%
Other disabilities 4%
Health impairments 2%
ADD (w/o behavior disorder) 2%

One might think that many of the "behavior disorders" were a result of having been abused, not a precursor.

In a related study, these researchers examined the records of public and parochial school children and matched these with the child abuse registry. 31% of the children with an identified disability had records of maltreatment in either social services or police agencies.

The relative risk for maltreatment among children with disabilities was found to be three times that of other children. There was a strong association between disabilities & neglect, with children with disabilities being four times more likely to be victims than other children.
Children with behavior disorders and mental disabilities were significantly more likely to be neglected.

Adults with physical disabilities are abused at about the same rate as the general population, yet the abuse is more extensive and long lasting. Adults with other types of disability, including intellectual disabilities, are abused approximately 7 times more frequently than others.

However, disclosure rates of the abuse is believed to be less than that of the general population. Complicating the issues are the facts that response systems (child and adult protection services, law enforcement, victims services) are not prepared, for the most part, to offer their services to individuals with disabilities. Efforts are being made by small agencies around the country to remedy this problem.

Finally, the problems of acquiring disabilities as a result of abuse or crimes is not given the attention needed. Many individuals, as an outcome of domestic violence, retain hearing problems (deaf/Hard of Hearing) and Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) as most assaults are aimed at the victim's head. Problems of vision loss and spinal cord injuries are the result of these and similar crimes. Later onset of disability through victimization or illness requires the individual to make additional adjustments to those demanded by the cause, including psychological, social, emotional, economic, vocational and family changes.

There are only 2 main programs for Deaf and Hard of Hearing abuse victims. One is run by Marilyn Smith in the State of Washington, who has been successful in replicating her program in agencies around the country. Her program provides victims services and counseling support to Deaf and Hard of Hearing women by deaf and hard of hearing staff. Another program in Austin Texas run by Mary Wambach is a similar program for victims of Domestic Violence.

In Los Angeles, CA, there is a child abuse council for children with disabilities and a separate council for D/deaf children.

The Arc of Riverside's CAN DO project provides a listserv where members can share information, get answers to personal and professional questions about abuse, receive training and have access to resources including a "living" bibliography of articles, videos, curricula, books, and links to other resources. Arc Riverside hosts an online conference for those wishing to learn more (and receive CEU's for attorneys, social workers and other health/mental health professionals, among others). Arc Riverside also hosts the only ongoing national/international face to fact conference on abuse & disability. Visit their website for tapes, DVD's and other materials from prior conferences, the most recent is the 10th National/3rd International Conference March 14-16, 2005.


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