Whitney Blair Wyckoff
In a new study, researchers found that, after adjusting for demographics, men who have disabilities were four times more likely to be sexually abused during their lifetime compared with men who weren't disabled.
Previous studies have shown that women with disabilities are at a higher risk of becoming targets of sexual violence. But lead study author Monika Mitra, assistant professor of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, tells Shots that research that looks at incidence of sexual violence against men with disabilities has been limited.
"Looking back, I was a little surprised to see the results that we got," she says.
Researchers took data from an telephone survey from 2005 to 2009 in Massachusetts to look at the risk of sexual violence that men with disabilities face. In the survey, participants were asked to report if they had experienced any sexual violence in their lifetime or in the past year. That included completed rape, attempted rape, unwanted sexual touching or unwanted sexual exposure. The participants were also asked questions to determine if they had a disability.
Among the almost 26,000 survey respondents, almost 14 percent of men with disabilities said they experienced sexual violence in their lifetimes. That's compared to 3.7 percent of men without disabilities.
Another significant finding of the study, Mitra said, was the much-higher rate at which women with disabilities were affected by sexual violence. The study found that almost 27 percent of women with disabilities and more than 12 percent of women without disabilities reported experiencing sexual violence during their lifetime.
But the study authors write:
The most notable f?ndings are that the prevalences of lifetime sexual violence, completed rape, and attempted rape against men with disabilities were comparable to those against women without disabilities.
The findings were published online in the latest issue of American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Researchers noted a few limitations of their work, particularly that those who participated in the survey were high-functioning enough to not need assistance answering the questions over the phone. Also, none of the participants lived in institutions. And the study would exclude people who don't use land-line phones. However, researchers say the results of their study still point to higher rates of victimization among men with disabilities.
With this in mind, Mitra notes two key points for action. One is the importance of accessibility, which could be as simple as having a ramp at a rape-crisis center. And second, she emphasized the significance of inclusion and targeting to address the disparity.