There was a story in the news last week in which a guilty verdict in the trial of a man accused of repeatedly raping a young woman with Down syndrome in 2010 was overturned by the judge who had presided over the case, requesting a new trial.
Overturned, after a jury found the man guilty.
Of the rape of a woman with an intellectual disability.
And get this...there's more...
He overturned it and requested a new trial because the woman with Down syndrome "did not behave like a victim."
Let's look at some statistics for a moment, quoted from the Report on the 2012 National Survey on Abuse of People with Disabilities:
41.6% of the 1,234 people with disabilities surveyed (both intellectual and physical disabilities are represented here, and caregivers of people with intellectual disabilities unable to respond for themselves are included as respondents) reported having experienced sexual abuse.
Of that 41.6%, 34.2% of those had intellectual or developmental disabilities.
Among people with disabilities (all) who reported they had been victims of abuse (all types), only 37.3% said they had reported it to authorities. When a family member learns of the abuse, that rate of reporting rises to 51.7%.
41% of victims of sexual abuse did not report it.
Why such crazy numbers?
Fear, futility, lack of information.
58% believed that nothing would happen.
38% had been threatened or were afraid.
33% did not know how or where to report it.
And you know what? They were probably right.
When the victims did report the abuse to the authorities, nothing happened in 52.9% of the cases, and abusers were arrested in only 9.8% of the cases.
In the case of this young woman with Down syndrome, I truly applaud her and her family/caregivers for speaking out.
But to what end? No wonder so few do.
And, back to my original question, How does a rape victim behave?, whose right is it to decide, to determine, to judge? Who can know how any one person may behave in the face of severe physical and emotional trauma? Who can push aside all of the obvious physical evidence in this case and judge this young woman who has been through hell and back, who has endured the unthinkable?
Sign this Change.org petition, and read the report referenced above, folks. Arm yourselves with knowledge, and read past the devastating numbers to the tips and guidance found there to help you and your family members/friends/loved ones with disabilities prevent this kind of thing from happening with such alarming frequency.
Knowledge is power.