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Regional Center Staff
This Months Featured Article

Personal Safety For Persons With Developmental Disabilities

The University of Minnesota has published the results of a survey concerning violence against women with developmental disabilities. Women with a variety of disabilities were surveyed and reported that violence was the highest-ranking topic that affects their lives. The results indicated that 92% ranked this as their top priority. Women with developmental disabilities have a high probability of experiencing violence. Less data is available specifically about men with developmental disabilities who experience violence, but it may be assumed that these males experience violence more frequently than men in the general population do. Please refer to the publication Impact from the University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration. More can be found at:


What has research revealed about violence toward people with developmental disabilities?

Sexual violence against women
Women with developmental disabilities are up to 10 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than women who do not have developmental disabilities. Research results vary and should not be interpreted to mean that assault is inevitable, yet most researchers agree that most women with developmental disabilities will experience some unwanted sexual contact during their lives. A study at the University of Alberta, concentrated on 100 women aged 15 and older who had developmental disabilities and had been the victim of sexual assault. Eight percent (8%) of the perpetrators were strangers. Forty-seven percent (47%) reported they had experienced sexual assault more than ten times. Twenty percent (20%) of these victims have received counseling or treatment services that met their needs.

Physical violence and homicide
One research study concluded that adults (both women and men) with developmental disabilities were four times more likely to be assaulted than those in the general population. There were a number of homicide motives reported that varied from sexual crimes, financial gain, punishment, neglect, elimination of care giving demands, and unexplained motives. Three percent (3%) of these crimes were committed by peers and forty-eight percent (48%) of the perpetrators were either family members or paid caregivers.

Intimate partner violence
Very little is known about this kind of violence among women with developmental disabilities. In addition to anecdotal reports of partner violence, some women interviewed described psychological and emotional abuse. Reasons for not reporting such abuse were similar to women in abusive relationships regardless of disability: fear of having children taken away and fear of inability to survive on their own.

Caregiver violence
Although violent crime is sometimes perpetrated against people with developmental disabilities, more common are the instances of intimidation, excessive control, neglect, misuse of restrictive procedures and disrespect.

Peer violence
Frequently, individuals with developmental disabilities have little control over where and with whom they live. Inadequate staffing, clustering of persons who display aggressive behavior, and general caregiver negligence contribute to peer violence.


What can be done?

For California resources, the web site publishes the California Resource Guide, a Directory of State Programs Assisting Crime Victims with Disabilities.

Wellness Projects in California : Safety and Victimization Prevention

Abilities: Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Prevention
Frank D. Lanterman Regional Center (FDLRC)

This project provided consumers in Los Angeles County with the necessary knowledge and skills to prevent and/or protect themselves against assault or exploitation. The project also aimed to prepare these individuals for accessing medical, legal, and support services in the event of sexual assault or exploitation. Although this project is completed, the regional center has hired a peer advocate who will continue to train consumers on these issues.

For further information regarding this project, please contact:
Maureen Wilson
(213) 383-1300 EXT 719

Implementing a Model for Sexual Victimization Prevention
Redwood Coast Regional Center (RCRC) & North Bay Regional Center (NBRC)

Funded in FY 1999/00, this project resulted in the creation of local outreach teams in Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Solano, and Sonoma Counties. The teams consisted of volunteers who provided direct training to consumers and families regarding personal safety and the prevention of sexual victimization. The project also provided policy and community outreach on these topics.

Clay Jones, Director of Community Services, Redwood Coast Regional Center
(707) 462-3832 EXT 219

Safe and Strong: Strategies for Personal Safety
Tri- Counties Regional Center (TCRC)

The goal of this project is to reduce the risk of sexual assault and victimization of persons with developmental disabilities by providing a series of training videos for consumers. The three-part video series will focus on safety in the community, sexual assault, home safety, and appropriate interactions with law enforcement.

For further information regarding this project, please contact:
Jackson Wheeler, Health & Wellness Manager at TCRC
(805) 485-3177 EXT 255

Other Resources The Family Violence Prevention Fund is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the elimination of domestic violence. There are many valuable resources available at this site. The Children’s Safety Network provides resources and technical assistance to maternal and child health agencies and other organizations seeking to reduce unintentional injuries and violence toward children.


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