Are children with disabilities more inclined to endure abusive behavior from their caregivers or parents?

Yes, children with disabilities may be afraid to lose the relationship with their caregiver. The disabled child relies on the relationship to meet his/her needs on a daily basis.  And the child has developed a sense of security with the routine developed with the caregiver. Some disabled children are willing to endure a caregiver or parent’s abusive behavior. The disable child is emotionally dependent on the relationship. And in many cases the abuser tells the disabled child that it would be a mistake to end the caregiver-child relationship, because the abuser convinces the child that the child would not do well without the abuser. Disabled children believe the loss of the caregiver would be a threat to their own well being. Because of a lifetime of relying on care from others, a disabled child may not have a well-defined perception of autonomy and may be overly compliant with the aberrant behavior of an abusive parent or caregiver. A disabled child may not identify the behavior as abusive or may not be willing to report physical abuse. The disabled child may even deny that abuse occurred out of fear of retribution and fear of loss. The caregiver or parent may believe that the child cannot express or convey reports of the abuse and continue with the abuse, thinking no one will find out.  Often times the disabled child cannot escape an abusive situation as it is unfolding. Typically abused children develop methods of coping through the abusive episodes. Adaptive behaviors on the part of the disabled child are often seen in these cases, where the abused child will mask expression of true feelings about a subject, to avoid causing the caregiver or parent to escalate or become angry. According to some experts, females with disabilities are two to three times more likely to be assaulted and raped then females without disabilities, regardless of age. Children with disabilities are twice as likely to be raped or sexually abused. In fact, of all children that are abused approximately 15-17% has a disability. Young males with mental disabilities are more likely to be victims of sexual assault at an older age than males with out mental disabilities.   

Christopher Keane
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California Child Abuse and Child Injury Lawyer