Office for Victims of Crime
State-level Replication Guide
 September 2012 Text size: decrease font size increase font size   Send e-mail icon

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Reasons To Act

Prevalence of Abuse

In 2008, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (Harrell and Rand, 2010):

  • Persons with disabilities were victims of approximately 40,000 rapes, 116,000 robberies, 115,000 aggravated assaults, and 459,000 simple assaults.
  • Approximately 15 percent of violent crime victims with a disability believed that they became a victim because of their disability.
  • Persons with disabilities experienced rates of violence at least twice as high as those experienced by people without disabilities.
  • Women with a disability had a higher victimization rate than men with a disability; men had a higher rate than women among those without a disability.
  • People with a cognitive functioning disability had a higher risk of violent victimization than people with any other type of disability.

The following facts, gathered from additional published studies and statistics, outline the incidence of crime committed against persons with disabilities:

  • In 2000, approximately 5 million crimes were committed against people with developmental disabilities in comparison to 1.4 million child abuse cases and 1 million elder abuse cases (Petersilia, n.d.).
  • More than 25 percent of people with severe mental illness had been victims of a violent crime during a single year, a rate more than 11 times higher than that of the general population, even after controlling for demographic differences (Teplin et al., 2005). 
  • A study of North Carolina women found that women with disabilities were four times more likely to have experienced sexual assault in the past year than women without disabilities (Martin et al., 2006).
  • Only 3 percent of sexual abuse cases involving people with developmental disabilities will ever be reported (Valenti-Hein and Schwartz, 1995).