Using Technology to Identify Sexual Abuse in Persons with Intellectual Disabilities

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75 Minutes

Originally Aired
April 7, 2021

Nora J. Baladerian
Nora J. Baladerian, PhD
Project Director, Disability, Abuse & Personal Rights Project
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Susan Abend, MD, FACP
Chief Executive Officer, The Right Care Now Project, Inc.

Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates persons with intellectual disabilities (ID) report sexual abuse at 7x the rate of the average population. This is likely an underestimate of the abuse rate in this population, more than 350,000 individuals who live in group homes and institutional settings were not studied, and many sexual abuse cases go unreported in this group. Over 45% of direct service providers (DSPs) turn over annually, making the training to recognize abuse difficult, and cases may go unreported for a variety of reasons, including DSP perpetration of abuse, fear of job loss, or liability. Health care and direct service providers do not have a standard method to recognize signs of abuse, which may present differently from the cognitively average population and often can be mistaken for other health issues in a population with communication disabilities, as individuals with intellectual disabilities may not be able to communicate that abuse is the cause of their changed mood, health, behavior, and function. Training programs, such as the “Rule Out Abuse Physician Education Campaign,” provide information and signs of abuse as they emerge in persons with ID. It is difficult to assure that all physicians are properly trained and can implement this knowledge.

New information technologies, such as the Right Care Now Project, detect patterns of abuse from information about a person’s function and health regularly entered into the system by caregivers. This system creates notifications to DSPs, providers, and administrators recommending an investigation for sexual abuse.


As a result of this webinar, participants will be better able to:

  • Identify challenges for health care and direct service providers in recognizing and reporting abuse in those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • Restate new information technologies that help recognize patterns of behavior caused by sexual abuse and their potential to improve reporting rates.

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