A new report highlighting the increased vulnerability of children with learning disabilities to sexual abuse and exploitation has been published by Banardos and makes worrying reading about their safety and the services in place to ensure their wellbeing.
Unprotected, Overprotected say that there needs to be fundamental changes to societal attitudes and urgent changes to the way young people with learning difficulties are treated and supported. Of particular concern are false perceptions that these young people don’t have the same needs, wishes and desires to have a relationship as all young people. This means that they are left unprepared for risk and don’t understand how manipulation and exploitation are related to abuse.
Factors that play a part in the failure to recognise that young people with learning disabilities experience, and are at risk of, CSE include:
■ the infantilisation of many young people with learning disabilities
■ the social isolation of this group of young people
■ their lack of empowerment and voice
■ the lack of access to information and education on sex and relationships
■ false perceptions that young people with learning disabilities do not have the same needs, wishes and desires to have a relationship as all young people, and/or that they cannot be sexually exploited.
The report makes a number of recommendations to the UK and devolved governments, to put effective measures in place, to ensure that this group of children do not continue to be at higher risk and that their needs are dealt with when they have been exposed to abuse and exploitation.
Read the report