Talk About Sexual Violence

Published Sep. 11, 2018

The Arc U.S. has created a program entitled Talk About Sexual Violence.

"Health care professionals are in a frontline position to educate their patients about, and potentially prevent, sexual violence and abuse. The challenge is that these professionals have little or no experience talking about this issue with women who have disabilities. Also, women with disabilities are unlikely to raise the topic on their own. They may not know what constitutes sexual violence or how to describe it. Talk About Sexual Violence gives health care professionals the basic tools they need to have a simple, direct and honest conversation about an all too common experience faced by women who have intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) – sexual violence. Talk About Sexual Violence builds the capacity of health care professionals and lays the groundwork needed to both empower their patients and prevent future violence."

A final report on this issue was completed in September 2017. From the report:

"Nationally, 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted. However, women and girls with intellectual or developmental disabilities are four to ten times more likely to face sexual assault, with nearly 90 percent experiencing sexual assault during their lifetime. According to recent data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the rate of violent victimization (defined as rape or sexual assault) of people with disabilities is more than three times higher than the rate for people without disabilities. Studies show that learned reliance on caregivers and authority figures, as well as confusion about what sexual assault is, allows this trend to continue. Sexual assault is often not reported because women with intellectual or developmental disabilities may not have a safe person to turn to for help. With greater awareness of the prevalence of abuse and low health literacy, health care professionals can use effective communication strategies to offer a protected place where women with intellectual or developmental disabilities can talk openly about sexual assault.

Health care providers hold key positions to prevent sexual violence and must work together with individuals with disabilities and their allies to ensure all patients are supported and served. Health care professionals are not expected to be the sole source of solutions and support, but simply listening, believing and directing the victim to local resources lays the groundwork for prevention. Using the Talk About Sexual Violence training materials will help build the capacity and confidence of primary care providers to discuss sexual assault with women who have intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Read the final report at