Sexual Abuse Among Individuals with Disabilities

Living reference work entry


An important and understudied form of interpersonal violence is sexual abuse among individuals with disabilities. Approximately 15% of the global population has a disability. Individuals with disabilities are at a higher risk of experiencing sexual abuse than individuals without disabilities. The experience of sexual abuse in individuals with disabilities is highly complex due to the individual variation, range of disabilities, and individuals’ intersecting identities. In addition, it is difficult to research this topic due to the reporting challenges faced by such a vulnerable population. This chapter underscores the problem of sexual abuse in individuals with disabilities and actions that can be taken to reduce its prevalence. It is written from a biopsychosocial perspective and considers this topic within an ethical and public health context. First, this chapter covers the scope of the problem and how it is defined. Next, it includes the main risk factors of sexual abuse in individuals with disabilities and intersectionality considerations. It also highlights factors that can be protective. The physical and psychological consequences of sexual abuse are detailed next. Subsequently, this chapter provides a recommended assessment strategy for identifying and reporting sexual abuse in individuals with disabilities. Empirically-supported intervention programs are evaluated and prevention efforts are described. Unique ethical situations are also detailed and discussed. This chapter concludes with future directions for the field to continue this research and take actionable steps to reduce sexual abuse among individuals with disabilities.


Sexual abuse Disabilities 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Health and Human ValuesDavidson CollegeDavidsonUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Sarah Cook
    • 1
  • Kevin Swartout
    • 2
  • Thema Bryant-Davis
    • 3
  • Tracy N. Hipp
    • 4
  • Amanda Hill-Attkisson
  • Jacquelyn White
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology and Public HealthGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Graduate School of Education and PsychologyPepperdine UniversityEncinoUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MemphisMemphisUSA
  5. 5.University of North Carolina at GreensboroGreensboroUSA

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