Abuse and Down Syndrome: Protecting Our Children

7 years ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.

I am not worried about speech development for my 17-month-old daughter with Down syndrome, Moxie. I'm not worried about when and how she will walk. Not worried her mastery of eating utensils, or really, much of anything. Except abuse. I am terrified of abuse.

It can keep me awake at night. I breathe deeply and let it go and try as best as I ever can to not hold my fear in.


I'm not going to Google up a bunch of statistics for you (a simple search like this easily suffices), but people with disabilities are far more likely than people without disabilities to be sexually, physically or psychologically abused. I know this from personal experience; I know this from common sense.

People with disabilities are counted among the most vulnerable.


I read once -- I believe it was in Choosing Naia -- in which the author visits a local Down syndrome association and there were two workshops going on at the same time: one was about dating and the other was about rape prevention. Both were packed with participants. He recounted how the dating workshop was a hit because the facilitator treated the participants as they actually were: full grown adults that wanted a love life. The rape prevention one was a complete, utter, dismal failure. He said that the facilitator started out by asking how many had experienced rape - and nearly every hand in the room shot up. Stories about being raped abounded. And the facilitator responded by treating the participators far from the adults they were, telling them to say "bad man!", to "look for an adult" to help them when someone tries to rape them.

I remember reading that and crying and then becoming furious. I mean, rigid with rage. Almost a whole room is raped and you are telling them to look for an adult to help them? A room, raped, and "bad man!"? Not least in that the adult that should, could help -- the adult that was likely hired to help, is usually the one doing the raping.


What is it with treating adults with Down syndrome as if they are children? What is it with not equipping those same adults with the tools our society gives everyone, except, it seems, those that need it most?

From our end, we need the maps (**see below) to tell you where registered offenders live. We need information ever-present on the latest technological gidgety-gadgets -- to know when our photos are imbedded with our location (Becca wrote a great post on this). We need to know how to turn it off, how to manipulate what's there.

And we need to know what to watch for in what's closest to home. Not the creepy dude lingering by the fence at the playground (call the cops on him); I"m talking about the charming, highly popular elementary school teacher with a PhD. The "pied piper" of children. The guy that you would never, ever in a million years EVER think is a pedophile and yet... over time especially, something niggles about him, something not quite right. Something about the way he likes to hug, or a lingering touch, whispers in the ear. Something about the way he and others like him befriend the little ones -- the ones from troubled homes. The "ugly" ones, the ones who are teased on the playground. And yes, the ones who have disabilities.

Watch out for him, my friends. Watch out for him. Guard and protect your little ones as they grow. Tune into your instinct with every fiber you have. Trust people, but not completely. Keep your raving, paranoid helicopter self at bay but be wary. Listen. Carefully observe. Be on the lookout, most especially with those closest to your child. Their teachers. Their therapists. Their soccer coaches. Their counselors. Their aids. And back again.


can do. Like make sure she knows how to protect herself. Knows to say scream, "no." Knows how to kick someone in the balls. Teach her what to do. Treat her as an adult when the time comes. And more, equip her with oceans of self-esteem, keep her home solid, safe, whole. Do all that I can to ensure that despite having a disability, she is not counted of the most vulnerable.


I don't mean to scare you. But then again, maybe I do: with what we know about abuse and disability, we need to be Mama (and Daddy) Bears over this. We won't get a second chance to keep our kid whole.

More information:

The Profile of a Pedophile
---and more...

- Child Safe Tips
- About
- Wikipedia

Megan's Law: "A federal law passed in 1996 that authorizes local law enforcement agencies to notify the public about convicted sex offenders living, working or visiting their communities.
Megan's Law was inspired by the case of seven-year-old Megan Kanka, a New Jersey girl who was raped and killed by a known child molester who moved across the street from the family. The Kanka family fought to have local communities warned about sex offenders in the area. The New Jersey legislature passed Megan's Law in 1994." (- from about)

Look your area up.


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