American Indian/Alaska Native people with physical, mental, cognitive and mobilitiy disabilities suffer some of the highest rates of Sexual Violence in the United States.
An American Indian/Alaska Native person with disabilities, regardless of gender, is much more likely to be a victim of sexual assault than a person without disabilities. Women with cognitive disabilities are four times more likely to be sexually assaulted than women without disabilities.
According to the United States Department of Justice, there are several reasons why people with disabilities are more likely to be victims of sexual assault than the general population, including:
Persons with disabilities can be less likely to recognize and avoid danger
Persons with physical disabilities may be less likely to be able to protect themselves or escape harm
Persons with disabilities may have problems contacting or communicating with law enforcement
Caregivers may be the perpetrators of the sexual assault, or the person with disabilities may be otherwise dependent on the perpetrator
Perpetrators of sexual violence against victims with disabilities are most often known to the victim. Victims with disabilities are often repeatedly victimized by the same perpetrator. Almost 90% of sexual assault victims with disabilities know or were familiar with the perpetrator of the crime.
Although American Indian/Alaska Native women with disabilities are much more likely to be sexually assaulted than the general population, less than three percent of these crimes are reported.
Several factors may explain this startling statistic. First, the majority of perpetrators of sexual violence against American Indian/Alaska Native victims with disabilities serve as the victim’s primary caregiver. Thus, the victim may be dependent upon the perpetrator for food, clothing, healthcare, and shelter. Additionally, the victim may not want to report the crime because she fears being institutionalized or ejected from her home without the necessary, supportive care provided by the perpetrator. The nature of the disability may also hinder communicating the violence to authorities. Further, victims with cognitive disabilities may not comprehend or have the awareness that they have been victimized.
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*National Tribal Trial College is a project of the Southwest Center for Law and Policy (www.swclap.org) This project is supported by Grant No. 2017-SA-AX-K001, awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.