Despite the increased awareness in our culture, sexual abuse remains a very difficult topic to discuss. We want to believe it only happens to other people or in other places. But abuse knows no boundaries and is present in every demographic and socioeconomic class.

In a study of more than 4,500 maltreated children, researchers found children with disabilities were 3.14 times more likely to be sexually abused than their non-disabled peers. Other studies suggest up to 10 times increased prevalence of abuse. 

Children with Down syndrome are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse due to:

  • Limited verbal communication and vocabulary
  • Reliance on helpers for personal and physical needs
  • Lack of education in body awareness and boundaries
  • Conditioned compliance due to need for interventions
  • Frequent separation from typical peers
  • Increased exposure to multiple adults and caregivers
  • Strong desire for attention = vulnerability to manipulation
  • Societal expectation that children with Down syndrome are friendly to all people, even strangers