Intellectually Disabled Victims of Sexual Abuse in the Criminal Justice System

DOI: 10.4236/psych.2013.43A054   PDF   HTML     7,146 Downloads   10,756 Views   Citations


People with intellectual disabilities face an exceptionally high risk of being victims of sexual abuse and thereby becoming involved in the criminal justice system. Coping effectively with this system is enough of a challenge for those without disability, but it is far more difficult for the intellectually disabled. As a result, greater attention needs to be paid to their needs. From the opposite perspective, dealing with people with intellectual disabilities is a challenge for experts in forensic and criminal law practice. This short report presents the background, design, and preliminary findings of a study examining how far the police, judges, prosecutors, forensic-psychiatric experts, forensic-psychological experts, and social workers are able to ensure that victims with intellectual disabilities experience procedural fairness by taking their particular needs into account in everyday criminal proceedings.

Share and Cite:

Niehaus, S. , Krüger, P. & Schmitz, S. (2013). Intellectually Disabled Victims of Sexual Abuse in the Criminal Justice System. Psychology, 4, 374-379. doi: 10.4236/psych.2013.43A054.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Akrami, N., Ekehammar, B., Claesson, M., & Sonnander, K. (2006). Classical and modern prejudice: Attitudes toward people with intellectual disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 27, 605-617. doi:10.1016/j.ridd.2005.07.003
[2] Allington, C. L. J. (1992). Sexual abuse within services for people with learning disabilities: Staffs’ perceptions, understandings of and contact with the problems of sexual abuse. Mental Handicap, 20, 59-63. doi:10.1111/j.1468-3156.1992.tb00660.x
[3] Antonak, R. F., & Livneh, H. (1991). Survey research on attitudes. In J. L. Matson, & J. A. Mulick (Eds.), Handbook of mental retardation (pp. 552-568). New York: Pergamon Press.
[4] Becker, M. (1995). Sexual abuse of girls with intellectual disability: Data and background. Heidelberg: Edition Schindele.
[5] Bohner, G., Reinhard, M.-A., Rutz, S., Sturm, S., Kerschbaum, B., & Effler, D. (1998). Rape myths as neutralizing cognitions: Evidence for a causal impact of anti-victim attitudes on men’s self-reported likelihood of raping. European Journal of Social Psychology, 28, 257-268. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-0992(199803/04)28:2<257::AID-EJSP871>3.0.CO;2-1
[6] Brennan, M., & Brennan, R. (1994). Cleartalk: Police responding to intellectual disability. Warra: Charles Sturt University.
[7] Bureau of Justice Statistics (2012). National Crime Victimization Survey 2008-2011. =4574
[8] Burt, M. R. (1980). Cultural myths and support for rape. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38, 217-230. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.38.2.217
[9] Burt, M. R., & Albin, R. S. (1981). Rape myths, rape definitions, and probability of conviction. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 11, 212-230. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.1981.tb00739.x
[10] Conte, J. R., Wolf, S., & Smith, T. (1989). What sexual offenders tell us about prevention strategies. Child Abuse and Neglect, 13, 293-301. doi:10.1016/0145-2134(89)90016-1
[11] Cossins, A. (2000). Masculinities, sexualities and child sexual abuse. The Hague: Kluwer Law International.
[12] Elliott, M., Browne, K., & Kilcoyne, J. (1995). Child sexual abuse prevention: What offenders tell us. Child Abuse and Neglect, 19, 579-594. doi:10.1016/0145-2134(95)00017-3
[13] Endicott, E. (1992). Technical report: The impact of Bill c-15 on persons with communication disabilities. Ottawa: Research and Development Directorate, Department of Justice.
[14] Fegert, J. M., Jeschke, K., Thomas, H., & Lehmkuhl, U. (2006). Sexual self-determination and sexual abuse. Weinheim: Juventa.
[15] Fitzgerald, J. (2006). The attrition of sexual assault offences from the New South Wales Criminal Justice System. Contemporary Issues in Crime and Justice, No. 92. Sydney: NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.
[16] Frazier, P. A., & Haney, B. (1996). Sexual assault cases in the legal system: Police, prosecutor, and victim perspectives. Law and Human Behavior, 20, 607-628. doi:10.1007/BF01499234
[17] Gerger, H., Kley, H., Bohner, G., & Siebler, F. (2007). The Acceptance of Modern Myths About Sexual Aggression (AMMSA) scale: Development and validation in German and English. Aggressive Behavior, 33, 420-440. doi:10.1002/ab.20195
[18] Green, G. (2001). Vulnerability of witnesses with learning disabilities: Preparing to give evidence against a perpetrator of sexual abuse. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 29, 103-109. doi:10.1046/j.1468-3156.2001.00136.x
[19] Inclusion Europe (2003). Justice, rights and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities. Brussels: Inclusion Europe.
[20] Kebbell, M. R., Hatton, C. & Johnson, S. D. (2004). Witnesses with intellectual disabilities in court: What questions are asked and what influence do they have? Legal and Criminological Psychology, 9, 23–35. doi:10.1348/135532504322776834
[21] Koss, M. P., Goodman, L. A., Browne, A., Fitzgerald, L. F., Keita, G. P., & Russo, N. F. (1994). No safe haven: Male violence against women at home, at work, and in the community. Washington DC: American Psychological Association. doi:10.1037/10156-000
[22] Krahé, B. (2012). Social reactions to primary victimization: Influence of stereotyped judgment patterns. In S. Barton, & R. Kolbel (Eds.), Ambivalenzen der Opferzuwendung des Strafrechts (pp. 159-175). Baden: Nomos.
[23] Mayring, P. (2002). Qualitative content analysis: Research instrument or mode of interpretation? In M. Kiegelmann (Ed.), The role of the researcher in qualitative psychology (pp. 139-148). Tübingen: Ingeborg Huber.
[24] Mayring, P., Huber, G. L., Gürtler, L., & Kiegelmann, M. (2007). Mixed methodology in psychological research. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
[25] Milne, R., & Bull, R. (1999). Investigative interviewing: Psychology and practice. Chichester: Wiley.
[26] Longo, R. E., & Gnochenour, C. (1981). Sexual assault of handicapped individuals. Journal of Rehabilitation, 47, 24-27.
[27] Oosterhoorn, R., & Kendrick, A. (2001). No sign of harm: Issues for disabled children communicating about abuse. Child Abuse Review, 10, 243-253. doi:10.1002/car.697
[28] Peckham, N. G. (2007). The vulnerability and sexual abuse of people with learning disabilities. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35, 131-137. doi:10.1111/j.1468-3156.2006.00428.x
[29] Peled, M., Iarocci, G., & Connolly, D. (2004). Eyewitness testimony and perceived credibility of youth with mild intellectual disability. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 48, 699-703. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2788.2003.00559.x
[30] Rand, M. R. (2002). Crimes against persons with disabilities. In D. Levinson (Ed.), Encyclopedia of crime and punishment (Vol. 1, pp. 394-397). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. doi:10.4135/9781412950664.n102
[31] Robey, K. L., Beckley, L., & Kirschner, M. (2006). Implicit infantilizing attitudes about disability. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 18, 441-453. doi:10.1007/s10882-006-9027-3
[32] Schrottle, M., Hornberg, C., Glammeier, S., Sellach, B., Kavemann, B., Puhe, H., & Zinsmeister, J. (2012). Living conditions and stress of women with impairments and disabilities in Germany. Journal Net-zwerk Frauen- und Ge﹁schlechterforschung NRW, 30, 60-64.
[33] Scior, K. (2011). Public awareness, attitudes and beliefs regarding intellectual disability: A systematic review. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 32, 2164-2182. doi:10.1016/j.ridd.2011.07.005
[34] Senn, C. Y. (1988). Vulnerable: Sexual abuse and people with an intellectual handicap. Toronto: The G. Allan Roeher Institute.
[35] Sobsey, D. (1994). Violence and abuse in the lives of people with disabilities: The end of silent acceptance. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.
[36] Tag, B., Schmidt, J., & Wiesner, S. (2006). The disabled child in criminal law: As victim and offender. In F. Sprecher, & P. Sutter (Eds.), Das behinderte kind im schweizerischen recht (pp. 115-142).. Zürich: Schulthess.
[37] Temkin, J., & Krahé, B. (2008). Sexual assault and the justice gap: A question of attitude. Portland, OR: Hart Publishing.
[38] Trost, R. (2010). Sexuality and sexual abuse in people with intellectual disability. In M. ClauB, M. Karle, M. Günter, & G. Barth (Eds.), Sexuelle Entwicklung-sexuelle Gewalt (2nd ed., pp. 22-40). Lengerich: Pabst Science Publishers.
[39] Tyler, K. A., Hoyt, D. R., & Withbeck, C. B. (1998). Coercial sexual strategies. Violence and Victims, 13, 47-61.
[40] Volbert, R. (2012). Injured parties in criminal proceedings: Positive effects or secondary victimization? In S. Barton, & R. Kolbel (Eds.), Ambivalenzen der opferzuwendung des strafrechts (pp. 197-212). Baden: Nomos.
[41] Walter, J. (2002). Assaults on the sexual self-determination of people with intellectual disability. In J. Walter (Ed.), Sexualitat und geistige behinderung (5th ed., pp. 414-420). Heidelberg: Universitatsverlag Winter, Edition S.
[42] Walter, J. (2005). Self-determined sexuality as a human right: Standards for dealing with the sexuality of disabled people. In J. Jerg, J. Armbruster, & A. Walter (Eds.), Selbstbestimmung, assistenz und teilhabe (pp. 105-122). Stuttgart: VEG.
[43] Wansing, G. (2007). Disability: Leading to inclusion or exclusion? On the construction of paradoxical life courses in the modern society. In A. Waldschmidt, & W. Schneider (Eds.), Disability studies, kultursoziologie und soziologie der behinderung (pp. 275-297). Bielefeld: transcript Verlag.
[44] Zemp, A. (2002). Sexualized violence against people with disabilities in institutions. Praxis der Kinderpsychologie und Kinderpsychiatrie, 51, 610-625.

comments powered by Disqus

Copyright © 2020 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.