In a 2000 study of more than 4,500 maltreated children, researchers found children with disabilities are 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. 

There are some general characteristics of young children with Down syndrome that put them particularly at risk:

  • Limited verbal communication and vocabulary
  • Heavy reliance on others for basic needs such as diapering and toileting
  • Increased need for interventions (medical, therapeutic, etc.) can unintentionally teach compliance to authority figures
  • Frequent separation from typically developing peer group
  • Exposure to multiple adults and caregivers
  • Lack of education in healthy body awareness, privacy and boundaries
  • Strong desire for attention = vulnerability to manipulation
  • The societal expectation that children with Down syndrome are friendly and loving to all people, even strangers