We're Not Talking About a Major Sex Assault Problem

NPR looks at assaults against those with intellectual disabilities
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 8, 2018 11:52 AM CST
People with intellectual disabilities are also more likely to be raped during the daytime, NPR found.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Amidst the #metoo movement, NPR reports on a group of Americans who may have more reasons than most to utter those words—and yet have been kept in the shadows. Joseph Shapiro reports that people with intellectual disabilities are assaulted seven times more than those without such disabilities, a finding that stems from an analysis of unpublished Justice Department data obtained by NPR during a year-long investigation. And even that might be an undercount, as the data doesn't include any assaults committed on those living in institutions, which a DOJ statistician says is an environment even more ripe for assault. These crimes often go not just unvoiced but also unpunished, with prosecutors sometimes wary of a victim's ability to testify; in some cases, the victims lack the physical ability to speak at all.

The DOJ data revealed people with intellectual disabilities are more likely to know their rapist—14% of rapes were committed by a stranger, versus 24% for the general population—and that was the case with Pauline, a 46-year-old old woman with intellectual disabilities whose story illustrates NPR's findings. She was raped in February 2016 by two boys, ages 12 and 13, who were the foster child and adopted son of her longtime caretaker, Cheryl McClain. McClain called police, and the boys confessed, but then things took a twist, with McClain pressuring Pauline to recant, threatening her with expulsion from the house, and coaching her to say it was consensual sex that she enjoyed. Police and prosecutors saw through McClain's attempts, in part because Pauline was unwavering with her story; some similar victims are much more "malleable." The full read explains how her case ended. (Read more sex assault stories.)

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