Updated 09/12/2012 06:20 PM
Helping disabled abuse victims
The abuse of any child is devastating, but the ones that may be preyed upon most are also the most vulnerable. Studies show victims in 64 percent of reported physical, sexual and emotional abuse cases had some sort of disability. The McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center hosted workshops Wednesday to help make it easier for those closest to the cases to help children in need. Sarah Blazonis has more.
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- It can be difficult for children who walk through the doors of the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center to deal with abuse they experienced. One advocate says this is especially true for those with disabilities.
"Deaf people have experienced oppression many years and there's always been communication pressures with that oppression, so one of the main reasons deaf people aren't really open about their experiences is because of that," said Lindsay Ryan Anthony with Project EMERGE, an initiative that helps disabled victims of sexual and domestic violence.
The center held workshops Wednesday to teach health workers and others close to such cases how to better help deaf, blind and other victims. Presenters say their abuse experiences are similar to others, but can be complicated by their disabilities.
"Whether they use a wheelchair and are reliant on others for care, whether they have a communication disability that prevents them from fully communicating and telling their experience," said Jennifer Shaw, director of Project EMERGE.
While studies show that twice as many disabled children as non-disabled experience physical, sexual and emotional abuse, center officials say they have served no disabled clients in the past year.
"I think that obviously speaks volumes because we know one in four and one in six girls and boys will be sexually abused by the time they're 18, so more than likely it's underreported," said Julie Cecile, executive director of the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center.
For those young victims who do seek help, speakers recommended using communication boards to learn about their experience and say it's important to respond immediately to self blame. They also say laying the foundation for strong community resources by providing more training is an important step toward giving victims a voice.