APA: Sexual Assaults More Severe Against Women With Physical Disabilities

August 20, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO -- Sexual predators are more likely to inflict excessive injury on women with physical disabilities than on those with mental or developmental problems, investigators reported here.

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 20 -- Sexual predators are more likely to inflict excessive injury on women with physical disabilities than on than those with mental or developmental problems, investigators reported here.

A study that included more than 2,000 women found that sex assault against women with physical disabilities tended to be more coercive and cause more injuries than attacks against women with mental or developmental disabilities.

In the study, presented at the American Psychological Association meeting, researchers examined reports from a sexual assault clinic in Toronto and compared the 1,091 women with disabilities with 1,120 women without disabilities.

About 66.7% of the 81 women with physical disabilities, which could include motor dysfunction, visual impairment, or hearing impairment, suffered physical trauma during the assault, compared with 63.8% of the women without disabilities; 63.3% of the women with a psychiatric disability, and 52.2% of the women with cognitive disability of developmental delay (P

"Meanwhile women with a physical disability, because of their inability to move, are hindered in their attempts to flee or fight back," she said, "although their understanding of what is happening might lead them to resist, resulting in more trauma."

Kelly said her analysis supports previous research noting that women with disabilities are at greater risk of sexual assault than other women who do not have disabilities. She cited studies that indicate women with disabilities are at a 50% greater risk of sexual assault than non-disabled women. She said 83% of disabled women are likely to suffered sexual assaults at least once in their lifetime.

"These findings appear consistant to what we suspect about sexual predators who would target phsyically disabled women," commented Bridget Fanning-Ono, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Portland, Ore.