Three disability-related organizations collaborated to produce the Abuse Awareness and Prevention Guide in April — Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The University of Missouri-Kansas City Institute for Human Development, Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council and Missouri Division of Developmental Disabilities developed the guide to help prevent sexual assault and other abuse, particularly for people with disabilities.
People with disabilities are disproportionately affected by abuse, including sexual assault, said Emily Hartley, deputy director of the council.
"Education is important. Without education and resources, people are more vulnerable," Hartley said. "We want people with disabilities and their families to have access to this."
Studies show people with disabilities are seven times more likely than people without disabilities to experience sexual violence, she said. Someone close to the victim — such as a family member, care provider or someone else involved in their daily routine — is most often the abuser.
And disabled victims are less likely to report abuse because they are oftentimes socially isolated or dependent on the assistance of their abuser.
People with disabilities also have fewer opportunities to learn about healthy relationships and sexual health, which makes it difficult for them to recognize when sexual abuse happens.
Andwecanstopit.org has gathered data from multiple sources, illustrating the danger of assault or abuse to people with disabilities. Some of the findings are at bit.ly/3mrP0vb.
The guide may be found at bit.ly/3t0qa8e. This website also offers videos explaining how someone might recognize abuse and download-able tools that could help someone create a plan for avoiding abuse.
"(The guide) is really targeted toward self-advocates, people with disabilities, to educate themselves on abuse," Hartley said.
Its developers want advocates to build safety plans, response plans and an education strategy.
"The guide is also there for supporters," she said. "Family members may have a challenge navigating that conversation with their son or daughter."
The "It's happening and we can stop it" website lists several striking data points, Harley said.
More than 1.3 million violent crimes, including rape and assault, occurred against people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in 2012 (Information from the Center on Victimization and Safety at the Vera Institute of Justice).
Ninety percent of people with disabilities will experience some sort of sexual violence during their lives, according to a 1995 study used by the U.S. Department of Justice.
"It's amazing that more people don't know about (the assaults and abuse)," Hartley said.