CALCASA-Campus Crime:
California Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Sexual Assault
Students with Disabilities
Copyright 2000, 2001, Nora Baladerian, Ph.D.
All rights reserved. For permissions conctact
Presented by….
Nora J. Baladerian, Ph.D., ACFE, CST
from the
Disability, Abuse & Personal Rights
Los Angeles, California
Roberta Gibbons,
Associate Director & Project Director,
Program Against Sexual Violence
at the University of Minnesota, Twin
What’s the Problem?
 Sexual abuse of students is a problem.
 Sexual abuse of students with disabilities
is a problem that has not been focused
upon to date, yet is a crime that occurs
every year on campuses across the
 Sexual abuse of students with disabilities
is not counted, thus only anectodal
accounts and estimates are available.
So, how big is the problem???
 Obviously, with no data being collected, we
can only estimate….how do we do that?
 We can extrapolate from studies of abuse
of children with disabilities. Findings
range from an increased rate of abuse from
2-10 times the rate of abuse of generic kids.
 We can extrapolate from studies of sexual
assault in generic populations….
…how big is the problem cont’d
•Which indicate that 1 in 4 women and 1
in ? Men will be sexual assault victims
during x period of time (before age 25,
during their lifetime, etc.)
•Knowing that having a disability increases
vulnerability we could just double that (2x
the rate) which would bring us to 50% for
women with disabilities and x% for men...
So, if we don’t know how big the
problem is, what’s the problem?
We could look at “under-reporting” stats…and
determine that only about 14% of cases are
reported BUT
 So long as reports are few, no data collection is
required, no special program is needed!!
 BUT, when specific questions are asked of Police
Chiefs and students with disabilities, we find
that assaults do occur
 AND….
…more than meets the eye...
When beginning my informal survey of Disabled
Student Centers at CSU campuses, none had
 heard of sexual assault being a problem
 heard of any program regarding sexual assault
for students with disabilities
 BUT they agreed that
 they would be interested in receiving materials
about this for their students.
So, we have converging
 No data collection is required, probably
 The “powers that be” have not been
convinced or been made aware that this
population of students is more vulnerable
to abuse than the generic student body
Together with
External data for generic populations of children
and adults with disabilities that show that they
have higher rates of criminal victimization than
the generic populations
 Anecdotal information from Chiefs of Police of
College Campuses, factual information from
college students with disabilities who have been
crime victims
Together with
 An awareness by CALCASA and others
involved with criminal victimization that
this is a problem that has received little
attention, and that
 Gaining an understanding of the student
with a disability,
 Acknowledging the heightened
vulnerability to victimization
Together with
 Developing
skills in primary, secondary
and tertiary prevention
 Implementing outreach programs to
students with disabilities
 Can lead to a safer campus life for the
students with disabilities on college
Begin at the Beginning
 Who are the students with disabilities?
 What kinds of disabilities are there?
 How can you be sure an assault occurred in
part because the person has a disability?
Does it matter?
 Do students with disabilities all use the
services of the Disabled Students Centers?
Who are the students with
They are students with identified
disabilities, in many cases. Some will not
have identified a disability.
 They are students from special education
programs for kids with developmental
disabilities acquiring work experience.
 They are students with obvious physical
disabilities without an intellectual deficit.
What kinds of disabilities are
 Sensory Impairments ( I hate
 Intellectual Impairments
 Learning Disabilities
 Mental Health problems
 Motor Impairments
 Orthopedic Difference
that word!! )
Sensory Impairments
 Visual
 Hearing
 Touch
 Taste
 Smell
Intellectual Impairments
 Mental Retardation
 Traumatic Brain Injury
• Accident
• Stroke
Learning Disabilities
• Dyslexia
• Aphasia
• Language Processing
– Receptive
– Expressive
– Mixed
• Writing Disabilities
Mental Health problems
All mental health problems are classified
in the DSM-IV, Diagnostic Standards
Manual, including
Bi-Polar Disorders
*One can be “dual diagnosed” which means
either mh + mr OR mh + substance abuse.
Motor Impairments
 Difficulty/inability to move or control
any part of the body
 Individual may require assistance for
• getting around (may use a wheelchair or
other device )
• communication (may use a computer or
other high-tech or low-tech assistance
• self care
Orthopaedic Difference
 Person may have a difference in any part of
the body which may affect
• ability to move, transport, communicate or
independently complete activities of daily
living (ADLs)
• how the person uses adaptations to
independently complete ADLs
• Appearance, communication or ADLs
 Source may be acquired or congenital
How can you be sure…
an assault occurred because the person has a
disability? Does it matter?
If the crime occurred because the victim has a
disability and the perpetrator was taking
advantage of the disability…. or
 Hates people who have disabilities...
 Important: both men & women are victimized
How do students with disabilities
differ from other students ???
Actual differences
Communication Mode
Life Experience
Exposure to
Perceived differences
Actual Differences (1)
• Culture
• Special classes or
special programs
• More supervision than
• Thus less autonomy in
small decisions for
• Language
• For H/H, use of sign
• For those with
understanding of
words not customary
such as advocate,
social worker.
Actual Differences (2)
• Communication Mode
• May be standard
• Could include
boards, higher tech
• May be better with
aural or written
• Life Experience
• Many therapists,
special early
intervention programs
for :
• communication
• medical
• speech
• other reasons
Actual Differences (3)
• Exposure to information
• May never have been exposed to information
• sexual assault
• child abuse
• system infrastructure
Perceived Differences:
Myths and Stereotypes
“THEY …”
 are asexual
 don’t have feelings
 are all alike
 are helpless
 are wild sex fiends -->
 are contagious
 Competency/devianc
 Wildness
 Angels or God’s gift or
 Are “less than”
 Dread
 Stupidity
Important Note:
People with disabilities believe these myths and
stereotypes about themselves, so they may have
a false sense of security that sexual assault is not
“their problem” since
 “no one” would find them attractive enough to
 They are basically “asexual”
 They should not think about sex because it is dirty
and will only make them sad they cannot have it.
 It is unseemly (wrong) for disabled people to have
This is believable because
Signs, programs, depictions related to sexual
assault never include people with disabilities
 No one has ever asked them about SA
 No one has ever told them that they could be
 They well recognize the taboos about sex in
general & those regarding people with
disabilities. (Don’t Tell the Cripples About Sex)
So when Sexual Assault occurs
 The victim
Feels stupid, inept
Feels and is unprepared for this emergency
Feels lost, confused
Does not feel “welcomed” to generic services
May be refused services at generic clinics
Acting on Perceived Differences
Crazy Thinking (well
intentioned but poorly
thought out interventions)
• No, Go Tell Programs for
individuals with mobility,
communication &
intellectual impairments
Sex Education as a
treatment response for
sexual assault
• learning to use a condom
as treatment for sodomy
Confusing Sex Education
with Sexual Assault
Parents tell kids the y will
not be raped
Dr Nora’s Maxim:
Sex Education
is to
Sexual Assault
Budgeting Training
is to
Armed Robbery
Perpetrator’s Perspective
Perpetrator’s vantage
points . He thinks the
 will not tell
 will not be able to tell
 will be too afraid
 will be too ashamed
 will not understand
Will not be believed
 Will not be able to
identify him or
describe the assault
 He believes he can
overcome any
accusation (I don’t
have a penis, I wasn’t
there, etc..)
How are students with
disabilities the same as others?
Young and crazy
 Seeking independence
 Trying new activities including drinking and drugs
 Meeting new people in new environments with
little safety guards in place
 Highly vulnerable to peer pressure including
pressure for sex
 Lack of solid understanding of STD’s and non
stranger sexual assaults
Do all students with disabilities
use the services of the Disabled Students Centers?
 They may
use the Center, but if they are
able to register, attend classes and benefit
from generic instructional activities
without the Center, they may not.
 BUT, the Centers reach out to students in
many informational areas, and could add
this to the list of areas they address.
What should be done?
•You can’t unring this
bell !!!!!
Practical First Steps
 Yikes !!!
What will this cost ???
• For no money….just
– Add “including students with disabilities” to all
informational programs, flyers, videos, brochures
related to increasing campus safety.
– Develop a policy statement at the University that all
crimes against students with disabilities will be
included in data collection & dissemination efforts.
– Ask the Rape Treatment Centers & Counseling
Centers to also “invite” students with disabilities
For a little bit of money
 Develop a brochure for students with
disabilities that describes sexual assault
• statistics that indicate higher risk
• describes specific risk reduction activities
• invites discussion groups at the Disabled
Students Center on campus
• using ADA standards for written materials
Coordinate with the MH and
Trauma services centers...
 Create presentations for new students with
disabilities on sexual assault, risk
reduction and services available;
 Create presentations for all students on
sexual assault, hate crimes, and increasing
understanding of differences among
 Talk about your pro-active policies on
student safety.
Take a leadership role
 Create a database at your centers, to add to
the new call for information about the
extent of victimization of adults with
 Create anecdotal data to inform safety
 Gain a reputation through action as a
“safety promotion” college campus.
 Using the concepts of PODER, you can easily
develop a brief but pithy and effective risk
reduction & safety planning approach
PODER in a snapshot
 Power through information & awareness
 Overt responses to possible abuse that
make sense
 Determination of potential danger
 Effective preparedness
 Response to abuse is expected & effective
in ameliorating the impact of the assault
Sample brochure
 It should be inviting
 fact filled
 contain truly helpful hints
 provide philosophical stances
 be thought provoking
 and promote introspection and actual
safety planning by the reader with friends
and family.
For Additional Information
 Call upon the CAN/DO Project:
Nora J. Baladerian, Project Coordinator
Child Abuse & Neglect/Disability Outreach
2100 Sawtelle Blvd. #303-1
Los Angeles, CA 90025
310 473 6768
FAX: 310 996 5585
TDD: 310 478 0588

CALCASA-Campus Crime: Sexual Assault of Students with