DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – During Disability Pride Month, local organizations say one of the best ways to protect those with developmental disabilities is to know the signs of abuse and be able to act as an advocate.
According to the CDC, women with developmental disabilities are more likely to experience abuse, typically in the form of intimate partner violence than those who do not have disabilities. Carroll Jackson, manager of the mental health support and services program for the Montgomery County Board of Developmental Disabilities said the first step community members can take toward prevention is awareness.
“Developmental disabilities are conditions due to an impairment of physical learning, language or behavioral areas that impact a person’s day to day functioning,” she explained.
Those disabilities can be cognitive and/or physical and can last a lifetime and in some cases, make those with disabilities more vulnerable to abuse.
“If you’re very dependent on your caregiver and that’s the person who’s making sure…that even just your most basic needs are being met, then you might be more hesitant to share that there’s something going on that could put your relationship with that person at risk.”
In addition to a decreased level of independence, Jane Keiffer, executive director of the Artemis Center, said there are additional factors that could put those with disabilities more at risk for abuse.
“Maybe people have mobility issues and they’re not able to get around as easily,” she explained. “Some people have emotional disabilities and coping with the violence keeps them from making steps to be safe. I think other disabilities such as the fear and anxiety of what can happen, what should happen, keeps a lot of people from leaving.”
However, the professionals say when community members are aware of the signs of abuse, they can safely intervene to help protect those with developmental disabilities from experiencing further mental, physical and emotional pain.
“I think, one, we need to make sure that we’re just checking in on folks and seeing how they’re doing,” said Keiffer. “And then again, it’s important to ask how they’re doing, not necessarily, ‘Are you being abused?’ but ‘How did you get this bruise?’ And again, they may not be honest right away, but continue to ask.”
If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, Jackson said, “The best thing that you could do would be to call your local law enforcement agency and share your concerns [and] report what you have seen.”
There are also a number of community resources available to offer assistance if you know someone with a developmental disability who is experiencing abuse. Staff at the Montgomery County Board of Developmental Disabilities said many of those programs are supported by the Montgomery County Human Services levy which will be on the ballot this fall.
To learn more about advocacy and awareness resources click on the links below.
To report abuse of person with a developmental disability through the Montgomery County Board of Developmental Disabilities, click here.
To contact the Artemis Center, click here.
To contact the YWCA, click here.