July 12, 2012

Disabled Children More Likely To Be Abused

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Children with disabilities are four times more likely to be victims of abuse than healthy youngsters, researchers reporting in the medical journal The Lancet have discovered.

In the study, researchers from the Liverpool John Moores University Center for Public Health and the WHO Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability analyzed 17 previous investigations involving more than 18,000 children, between 24 months and 18 years old, from the U.S., U.K., Finland, Israel, Spain and Sweden, Telegraph Medical Editor Rebecca Smith said.

They discovered that approximately 27% of children with disabilities had suffered some form of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect, and that these kids were at least three times more likely to be exposed to physical violence and nearly three times more likely to be exposed to sexual violence than children without disabilities, according to HealthDay News.

Furthermore, the researchers found that children with intellectual or mental handicaps were at greater risk of being sexually abused than those with different disabilities or with no disabilities.

"The impact of a child's disability on their quality of life is very much dependent on the way other individuals treat them," Mark Bellis, a professor at the university and the lead author of the study, told Smith. "Children with disabilities can end up being the targets of violence for the same reasons as all children, but several factors can increase their risk. They may be picked on because someone considers them different or does not understand their disability. Without enough support and education those caring for disabled children may become neglectful, even abusive."

"This research exposes just how much more at risk of neglect and abuse children with disabilities are and the importance of ensuring such children are not left vulnerable to violence," he added. "We need to ensure that parents and carers of children with disabilities get the support they need and that children understand personal safety issues. Health, social and criminal justice services need to recognize this is a problem, understand how to identify and respond to abuse and ensure they know how to prevent it."

"The results of this review prove that children with disabilities are disproportionately vulnerable to violence, and their needs have been neglected for far too long. We know that specific strategies exist to prevent violence and mitigate its consequences. We now need to determine if these also work for children with disabilities. An agenda needs to be set for action," Dr. Etienne Krug, Director of the WHO Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability, which funded the study, said in a statement.