#MeToo in the Special Needs Community

The #metoo movement has brought the issue of sexual harassment and abuse out of the darkness. Many people are finally finding the courage to speak up and speak out. But what if you can’t speak? Some communication boards are now including pictures that will allow non-verbal children to explain what has happened. Anatomically correct dolls are another way a child can report an event without words.

What if you don’t want to speak up because you depend on the abuser for care? What if you are unaware that what is being done to you, or what you are being made to do, is inappropriate? Individuals with special needs of all ages and all genders are among those being victimized, but are not always included in the crime statistics. While the abuse may happen at the hands of another child, often it is an adult who is taking advantage of someone with a disability such as drivers, aides or anyone who comes into contact with the child, especially in a one-on-one setting.

While we all try to shield children from some of the upsetting realities of the world we need to give them at least enough information to be able to realize what is not okay. They also need to know who to tell if something is making them uncomfortable.

Just as the Harvey Weinstein case has brought out something that was going on for a very long time and was almost considered “business as usual,” individuals with special needs deal with sexual assault and abuse so much it may seem part of the norm especially in institutions and group homes. It is important that we all agree that it should not be overlooked or shrugged off.

As parents or caregivers of someone with special needs we are already vigilant, and we should also be looking out for signs of this sort of mistreatment.


  • The child gets anxious or reacts negatively around a certain person or setting
  • Bruises anywhere in the areas of hips, thighs and buttocks
  • Bleeding anywhere in the underwear area
  • New behaviors that seem inappropriate or new interest in sexual topics
  • Suddenly spending a lot of one-on-one time with someone, such as a coach or an older friend
  • Being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease

For more statistics and information, go to http://cirinc.org/catta/pdf/FactSheet.pdf

About the Author

Rosie Reeves is a writer and mother of three; including one with special needs. She works side-by-side with her daughter’s therapists, teachers and doctors. Rosie has also served as the Los Angeles Special Needs Kids Examiner. She can be reached at rosie327@aol.com. Rosie is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


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