Abuse of Children and Developmentally Disabled Goes Unreported

abuse of disabled goes unreportedWhy do many of the disabled – nearly two thirds of them – choose not to report incidences of abuse?

Sadly, many disabled people feel they will not be believed if they report abuse or they think they will be ignored if they complain. Unfortunately, statistics show the disabled are often disbelieved and ignored when they report what has been done to them.

Most Serious Forms of Abuse Goes Unreported

A large survey of more than 7,200 people done by the Disability and Abuse Project found that rates of non-reporting are high even with the most serious forms of abuse. Forty percent of victims of physical abuse did not report the violence to authorities. More than 41% of those who were sexually abused did not report the abuse. The survey also showed 58% of those interviewed did not report an assault because they believed nothing would happen; 38% had been threatened or were otherwise afraid and 33% did not know how or where to report it.

When a disabled person complains about abuse to a parent, guardian, caregiver or agency, ideally that complaint should make its way to the county board of developmental disabilities. A county investigative agent would then decide whether the allegations should be pursued and referred to the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities. But problems often begin long before the county board has a chance to consider a report as some prosecutors and members of law enforcement are not equipped to deal with the claims of disabled victims, according to Disability Ohio, an advocacy group for the disabled based in Columbus.

Ohio has no statewide coordinated effort across all involved groups, Disability Ohio representatives point out. It is critical for the state to address the void between the stories of abuse and the statistics that indicate the wider failure to prevent and prosecute these crimes. Developmentally disabled people are at greater risk of sexual abuse because they are frequently dependent on others to accomplish their day-to-day activities or for their financial support. They are often isolated from the larger community and lack the education about how to identify abuse and report it.

Signs of Abuse

Some family members do not know the signs of abuse in their loved one. Any signs of injury, changes in behavior, mood, communication, sleep or eating patterns are considered “red flags.” It is important not to discuss the suspected abuse with anyone involved in the program or facility where you believe abuse is occurring and where your loved one may be residing. The guilty party may deny there is a problem, punish your loved one, or attempt to destroy evidence.

You should remove your loved one from the facility immediately upon spotting potential abuse and contact the owner of the facility or the police. Contact the Victims of Crime program and seek their support.

If there are changes in behavior or mood of your loved one, take them to a mental health practitioner who can document what is going on. If injuries are physical, take your loved one to a physician who can diagnose and treat the condition and document findings.

It is also important that you create a journal noting the signs of abuse that you discovered or observed. Take pictures of any injuries, if possible and make a record of any conversation you have with your loved one regarding what may have happened, or if you are trying to ascertain if any wounds may have been self-inflicted.

In Ohio, all direct care workers and other employees of the developmental disabilities system are mandated to report any instance of suspected abuse to a law enforcement agency, or the state or local county board of developmental disabilities. But reporting requirements are not the same for all positions in all state agencies and instances of abuse are often not reported in a timely manner, according to Disability Rights Ohio. This policy of reporting abuse is known as an unofficial system of accepting abuse reports and is a “no wrong door” policy designed to ensure that complaints are investigated even if they initially come to the DODD through the wrong door.

It is also possible to report instances of abuse and neglect of the disabled to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office by calling 614-466-0722, or call the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities Abuse/Neglect Hotline at 866-313-6733.

Take Legal Action

If you have a loved one who is being abused by a caregiver, please contact us for a free, private and confidential consultation. A free consultation is just that – Free. You will be charged nothing whatsoever and you are under no obligation to hire our law firm. Free and private consultations are a courtesy we provide anyone so they can get the professional legal advice they need.

To schedule a free consultation, please contact us by calling 1-888-283-0737, chat with one of our 24-hour live chat representatives or send us a website message.

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