Jacob, a child with Down Syndrome, enjoying a family holiday and browsing in shops, like any other 5 year old child wouldJacob looking at books and watching TV at age 6 years - Down Syndrome doesn't stop normal development, but social attitudes do. - Jacob, a baby with Down Syndrome - Jacob at one year of age



Child abuse of the intellectually disabled is much easier because of their lack of understanding. We don’t always see the abuse, nor hear about the abuse from the child or adult with Down Syndrome, or other intellectual disability. So there are two things we need to look at to try and prevent or stop the abuse of those with Down Syndrome:

One of the first signs of abuse is a change in behavior. Often the adult or child with Down Syndrome will act out the abuse they recieve. By noting changes in behavior, areas of abuse may come to be noticed that would have remained hidden.

The next line of abuse protection rests with the Down Syndrome or other intellectually impaired person, in that they need to be educated / trained about what is right or wrong beghavior and what to do should the situation arise.

For example Sex education for a teenager, adult or child with Down Syndrome is a must consideration for a parent tyring to prevent their child sufferring sexual abuse. Sex is as much a part of a person’s life as air is to the lungs, whether they have Down Syndrome or not.

Sexual exploration begins very early in life and is part of normal development. For those with an intellectual disability, which includes nearly every one with Down Syndrome, the sexual exploration and urges may be dificult for them and others to understand; for this reason, those with Down Syndrome require instruction in all matters related to sex and sexual exploration.

There are two points I want to make very strongly: Firstly, all people, including those with a disability such as Down Syndrome, have every right to reproduce, develop sexual relationships, marry and attempt to raise a family.

I recall one pentecostal Christian telling me once that it was good that males with Down Syndrome were largely infertile, blah blah blah. She wouldn’t pray for them to become fertile, because they weren’t brainy enough for her. This attitude is just a thinly veiled form of aparthied racial cleansing – if someone is different, there right to exist is taken from them. For people with Down Syndrome, the racial cleansing is always around the corner and the one of the most insidious of abuses.

If you have a bad heart or lungs, then the doctors will try and find a donor for your operation – have Down Syndrome and they will turn their back on you and give you all manner of reasons why you shouldn’t be helped like other people. Fortunately, such medical abuses of those with Down Syndrome are becomming more unacceptable in a modern civilisation, but, as a parent, you need to be aware of these abuses and be vigilant to protect the reproductive rights and the rights in general, of your child with Down Syndrome.

I know of another lady whose child with Down Syndrome was being refused an operation for his undescended testicles, because the doctor didn’t consider a child with Down Syndrome to have a need to have their reproductive capacity protected – but any other child would have been given the operation. That’s ABUSE!

The second issue is of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation. A female child with Down Syndrome has an 80% chance of being sexually abused, primarily by friends or family. Stopping the caregivers, relatives and friends from crossing that line into sexual abuse is really, really important. It is not your responsibility to meet the sexual needs of your child with Down Syndrome, nor of your brother or sister with Down Syndrome, it is up to you to help them to develop appropriate relationships with others.

R. Goldman, year 2003, through research, found that children with mental retardation are more dependent on their careproviders, are less involved with others, and are more likely to keep any abuse they suffer to themselves. Should they talk of abuse to anyone, their abuse is likely to be discounted because of how others perceive their mental retardation as affecting their perceptions.

Dick Sobsey, psychologist, 2005, found children with disabilities are about three times as likely to be abused / maltreated. There have been 1,130 homicides of people with disabilities over the past few years. Most of the homicides were committed by parents or caregivers.

He also noted a long history of physical abuse, sexual abuse and negligence relating to children and adults with disabilities with the perpetrator being bus drivers.

A message from Jacob’s parents:

SPECIAL NOTE: You may be interested in knowing that our son, Jacob, has been, we believe, emotionally abused by paid carers, one of the carers, if not two, were physically abusive. We no longer trust carers as providing adequate standards of protection to our son when in their care. To rub salt into the wound, when the complaints we made of abuse were investigated, we were told they would be allowed to continue providing care to other children with disabilities, but that, under the government’s privacy laws, the victims had no right to know what action was taken about the perpetrator! Nice cover up scenarios here in Australia.

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