Crime against the disabled is on the rise, and advocates say more needs to be done

People with disabilities are disproportionately victims of violent crime and abuse in the United States, according to the New data released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The frequency of such crimes is also increasing, according to the data, although activists do not seem to know the cause.

Data shows that in the period from 2017-2019, persons with disabilities accounted for 26% of non-fatal violent crimes, even though they make up only 12% of the population and are victims of violence nearly four times the rate of non-disabled people.

For women with disabilities, the disparity is greater and the potential for abuse appears almost inevitable for some, activists say. The data also shows the persistent prevalence of domestic and intimate partner violence against women with disabilities, and activists say it exposes the failings of a system not created for the welfare of people with disabilities.

Stephanie Lynn Kaufman Mthemkulu, Executive Director of the Non-Profit Organization Disability Advocacy Group LETS ProjectShe is herself a survivor of sexual violence and was sexually assaulted by a friend of hers when she was a college student.

She said she did not report the 2017 incident in part because she thought her psychiatric history and mental illness would make it difficult to hold her abuser accountable.

“I have seen [the legal system] “They tore people up,” Kaufman Mthemkulu said. And I don’t think I could have handled it. This is the reality we face, especially for people who have a psychiatric history, who have an intellectual disability.”

Now, she works as a disability justice organization in order to help try to curb attacks on disabled people like her.

It’s an uphill battle, according to activists – with a lack of research into violence in institutions, mistrust of law enforcement among society, and poverty and overrepresentation in the criminal justice system.

The power in our systems and societies

The BJS reports that the rate of violent crime against women with disabilities – 49.4 per 1,000 people – is higher than it is for both disabled and non-disabled men and women. For disabled men, this rate is 42.7 per 1,000. For all non-disabled people, it drops dramatically: 12.3 per 1,000 people.

Over the years this rate for people with disabilities has risen – from 2009 to 2019, the rate of violent abuse increased from 28.8 per 1,000 disabled to 46.2.

In a 2015 report by the U.S. Department of Human Health Services, researchers found that women with disabilities are more likely to experience violence or abuse than women without disabilities and more likely to experience violence or abuse by a current or former partner.

Activists say capacity – discrimination or prejudice against people with disabilities – is the root of this disparity and that misogyny puts women at greater risk.

“A lot of people don’t actually see [disabled people as] Kaufman Mthemkulu said, “Whole human beings are able to make independent decisions. We have all been conditioned in a way that allows for this belief that people with disabilities are inferior, weaker than others. To be thankful for any form of attention, or love, even if it is in the form of Offense “.

Disabled people are not only seen by some as “less than” but also seen as active in National Coalition of Hispanic Disabilities – or CNLD in Spanish – also say that different forms of eligibility affect the social, political, and economic status of people with disabilities in the United States

Report shortcomings

In the report, BJS researchers and law enforcement agencies acknowledged that the number of crimes actually committed against people with disabilities is likely to be higher than what has been reported.

The BJS cites a number of issues in its data collection that relies on collecting annual self-reported questionnaire responses followed by interviews hosted by the US Census Bureau. The BJS says that this research lacks input from institutional people, 54% of whom have a disability, and the interviewing and survey methods that contributed to this data set to obtain accurate or complete answers from people with disabilities may be inaccessible.

“The data is focused on individuals who are not institutionalized, and there is a lot of violence experienced by those who are institutionalized and not recognized or investigated,” Torres-Gerald said.

Although recent research on the topic is limited, one 1994 study from the journal Behavioral Interventions found that about 82% of all cases of abuse and neglect of adults with developmental disabilities took place in institutions or group homes and that people “who were intolerable or Unlikely. Those unable to report or resist abuses were the most common victims.”

Nor did the data separate differences between racial, ethnic and sexual groups.

Crime reporting statistics have also proven inaccurate for law enforcement agencies due to under-reporting, according to the Crime Victims Bureau. Activists say barriers to material or material independence, as well as social and economic injustice, keep crimes against disabled people in the dark.

Challenges facing women and the poor

It is also often difficult for people with disabilities, especially women, to leave abusive care or report abuse, accordingly. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For example, people with disabilities may be financially or financially dependent on an intimate partner. Activists say they may not be able to report because they cannot communicate or have no access to the phone.

The National Institute on Disability has found that people with disabilities can often be limited in either their ability to work or the ability to get a job due to inaccessible workplaces – and they are more likely to suffer from poverty than people without disabilities.

“In order for people with disabilities to receive any type of service, whether from Medicaid, they have to test finances. So they have to live permanently. [poverty]said Leonor Vanek, co-founder of CNLD. “They have to be on low incomes in order to get any services.”

If they are dependent on supplemental security income, There are restrictions on their income and restrictions on their financial assets: People with disabilities often cannot have more than $2,000 in cash at a time in order to get benefits, The Social Security Administration (SSA) website states that, leaving them in a situation where they are financially dependent on others or in poverty.

And if they are married, they may not be allowed disability benefits such as Social Security benefits and Medicaid because of the partner’s income, according to to SS.

But other forces of inequality also play a role, including people with disabilities who report crimes.

Lack of confidence in law enforcement by some

According to Kaufman-Mthemkulu, a lack of confidence in law enforcement prevents some from reporting to the police. PWD are often over-criminalized and over-represented in detention facilities; In 2016, nearly 2 in 5 state and federal prisoners had at least one disability, according to to BJS. In 2017, a study by Cornell University found it Persons with disabilities were more likely to be arrested when interacting with the police than their non-disabled counterparts.

According to research conducted by Disability Research Organization Ruderman Family FoundationNearly half of people killed by police have some form of disability.

“We really have to ask ourselves, what drives this desire for power?” Kaufman Mthemkulu said. “We have a lot of work to do as a collective society to move away from the violence that is ingrained in each of us. … We need to see these things reflected in politics, we need to see these things happen at a societal level.”

For some activists, these findings aren’t shocking — but they are a warning sign that systemic and personal violence against people with disabilities go hand in hand. Without accountability for the obstacles and red tape against the financial and social success of people with disabilities, activists say,

“[Lawmakers must focus on] Increased funding and community interventions to better support and create services for survivors can help build trust within the community so that survivors know there is a place for them to go and receive the support they need, said CNLD Treasurer Catalina Galvan.

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