A mother of a child with Down syndrome — who we will call Jane — chose to share with SheKnows her family's experience. Jane's son was sexually abused by a friend when the boys were 16 years old.
Months passed before he found a way to tell his parents. The predator had groomed him to believe that if he told his parents, they would think he was a "bad boy" and they wouldn't love him anymore.
On the night the truth emerged, Jane clutched her frightened child and promised him again and again that he was absolutely a good boy, and Mommy and Daddy would never stop loving him.
Jane's disbelief was as overwhelming as her confusion. This was a family she trusted — a boy her family knew, loved and trusted. Yet, he had committed the ultimate betrayal. Why? How? Hadn't she done everything right?
Children with special needs are perfect prey because they may not understand what is happening, know to speak up or have the communication skills to do so.
"I've learned a lot about this dark world," Jane says. "Our kids with special needs are the most vulnerable and the most abused. This is something that we should want to talk about and learn about."
Jenny Thompson has a daughter with Down syndrome and supports a nonprofit called Step Up, Speak Out.
"A big key… is creating a community of freedom where victims can tell their story and not feel guilt, shame, persecution," Thompson explains. "[Then] perpetrators are more likely to get convicted."
For more information on how to create a safer community, access the report.
Nearly one in 10 typical students (not just those with a disability) experienced unacceptable sexual behavior by a school employee while in school, according to a 2004 report for the U. S. Department of Education.
If you suspect abuse, the nonprofit Committee for Children provides information on next steps.
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