In this world, creeps, jerks, and butt heads are everywhere, and in the world of individuals with disabilities, idiots are plentiful. It is a fact that persons with disabilities, children and the elderly are more likely to be abused, neglected and exploited. We live in an age where parents are fearful to send their “precious cargo” to school for fear someone will hurt them, and if you are a parent with a child who is non-verbal this fear multiplies. I know parents who do head to toe body checks on their kids before and after a trip to daycare. Obsessive? Depends on who you ask. The fact that abuse and neglect can happen to their children is a paralyzing fear that settles over parents and caregivers of children with special needs.
For those parents who have made a choice to put their kids in a group home or a residential facility may feel somewhat relieved due to the amount staff a home or facility may have in these places. The fact that the Abuse Hotline phone number is located in multiple locations within the home does nothing for clients if staff cannot articulate to the clients what abuse and neglect are. To them, the Abuse Hotline number might as just be a picture on the wall.
What is abuse? According to Webster Dictionary, Abuse is defined by a corrupt practice or custom the buying of votes and other election abuses
2: improper or excessive use or treatment: misuse drug abuse
3: language that condemns or usually vilifies unjustly, intemperately, and angrily verbal abuse a term of abuse
4: physical maltreatment child abuse sexual abuse
Financial (not paying clients’ bills when supposed to, using the money for things that have nothing to do with the client); also sexual, physical, and emotional.
People with disabilities are at risk because:
They depend on others for basic needs
They are taught to cooperate with ” people in charge” like staff members.
They often live in group settings and cannot choose their roommates or caregivers.
People with disabilities may not report abuse because:
They feel guilty
Do not want to get their abuser in trouble
Do not know they are being abused
Signs of Abuse:
*Bruises, cuts, burns, grip marks
*Any injury that is unusual, unexplained or the explanation does not make sense
*Genital pain, or itching or sexually transmitted diseases.
*Not having enough money in the bank for bills, after monthly deposits, items may be disconnected such as water or power, after they were supposed to be paid, (this applies to individuals who live on their own and have a Supported Living Coach who helps them pay bills)
*Not enough food in the refrigerator or pantry (this generally for individuals who live on their own and have a Supported Living Coach who helps them pay bills) or clients buying staff items with their own money e.g. groceries, fast-food or giving their money to staff.
As a Social Worker who works for this vulnerable population exclusively, I see clients on a monthly basis. I continue to educate clients on what abuse looks like in ways they can understand asking, ” Who would you tell If I hit you?” I always ask them if I can have some money, and most of the time, they say, “No” In the event in which one of my clients forget, I then re- educate them on the importance of not giving their money to people. I follow-up with a phone call to their circle of supports and explain my finding and re-educate the circle of supports on other ways we as a collective can educate the people we serve. It is important to me as advocate, dedicated educator and supporter of the Special Needs community; our clients are aware and educated on Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation.
For more information about this topic please go tohttp://flfcic.fmhi.usf.edu/
Havercamp, S.M. & Veguilla, M. ( 2009). Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation: How to Protect Yourself