A new study has revealed that children suffering from mental or physical disabilities are four times more likely to suffer child abuse than those with normal capabilities – and that 27 percent of disabled children will suffer some form of sexual abuse, physical abuse, or emotional abuse before their eighteenth birthday.
The study, which was published in July by The Lancet, looked at a number of past studies of child abuse from around the world – 17 different studies of a total of 18,000 children in the United States, Sweden, Finland, Spain, Israel, and the United Kingdom. Researchers found that physically and mentally disabled children from all of these locations suffered higher rates of abuse – up to three to four times the rates seen among able children.
Specifically, the study found that mentally disabled children were at much higher risk of sexual abuse than physically disabled children, but that all disabled children are more at risk for sexual abuse than those who are not disabled. The study also found that disabled children are also more susceptible to child neglect.
What can we learn from this child abuse study? Researchers stressed that there must be greater awareness around the world that disabled children are more likely to be mistreated and that governments and other organizations need to take steps to protect these children, who often do not have the resources or understanding to protect themselves. Researchers also noted that the abuse of disabled children may be even more dire in developing countries and low-income areas – places where the rate of both disabilities and violence is often higher.