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Violence Against Children With Disability: Pinnacle Of Helplessness

Submitted by on November 9, 2013 – 10:09 PM

child abuse

Children with disability are the most sensitive and exposed group of people who are vulnerable to violence. It is because of the attached stigma and prejudice that any kind of disability, which can hinder a child’s daily performance; be it sensory, physical, mental or emotional . According to the World Bank report, nearly 3.2 million people living in Pakistan are disabled out of which 1.37 million are females.

According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (Rand&Harrell 2009,as cited in Heather etal.,2011),children with any form of  disability are more than two times likely to be exposed to sexual assault as other children. Moreover, this act of violence is more common in developing countries, where poverty takes a leads and rearing of a disabled child adds much stress to the family. A report on violence against children with disability in East Africa( Stopler 2007) states that, “Disabled children are 4 to 10 times more likely to be victimized” .  As sexual violence is the most prevalent issue globally which mostly goes unreported, it is a matter of great concern for all government and health care agencies.

This is the story of a 14 year old mentally challenged girl, who lives with her parents and her uncle in a small town. As her parents cannot afford her special education she is daily left alone at home with her uncle who takes care of her. She was sexually abused by her uncle, in a way by helping her change clothes and touching her body parts during the process. However, she remained unaware of what constituted the abuse.

She even shared this with her mother but was ignored, since her mother was unable to comprehend the situation. Her mother came to know of it when her daughter reported of severe abdominal pain one day and was diagnosed as a a case of miscarriage, adding to her miseries.

Considering this case and other related causes of sexual violence, there is an attached stigma against them that these children are sexually inactive, neglecting this form of violence as they are not prone it. Moreover, certain other factors (Sin et al., 2009) include not seeing them as beneficial or part of the family, as per the attached stigma which counts these people as of “no use”, taking them as easy victims.

The perpetrators in majority of cases are parents, family members, and care givers who take advantage of all these factors. Children with disabilities are more dependent on caregivers. Increase in dependency, demands and stress leads to these abusive behaviors as they cannot cope up with the situation. (Petersilia, 2001:678 as cited in Sin et al., 2009)

Consequently there are certain barriers towards underreporting of this act of violence which have a significant impact on disabled people, as they may feel helpless for not being heard, or will be punished if they’ll talk about it. Adding much stress to the condition are the cultural beliefs of people residing within the society at large, who believe that the birth of a disabled child is a curse, or punishment of bad deeds, a shame to their families who view them as curse. Sexual abuse to such disabled individuals goes unreported since they may hide this for fear of embarrassment and shame.

Sexual abuse of any child or young person is a breach of trust; they are left with scars on their souls and in their minds and they may end up having physical problems, unwanted pregnancy, sexual problems, behavioral problems, depression, anxiety and lack of trust. Such negative health impacts can persist long after the abuse has stopped(Nelson & Hampson 2005, as cited in Mcfeely, 2011). Moreover, rights such as freedom from discrimination, protection from abuse, assaults, torture and right to rehabilitative care for victims of neglect and abuse are highly violated.

The interventions at international level target the disabled children by conducting campaigns such as “Keep children safe” campaign by kids cape in UK teaches them about good and bad touch and putting skilled sex education in curricula as is being practiced in UK, Netherlands and Switzerland .

A program introduced by the Italian society of children and adults on “Education in self help reliance” shows videos and films regarding unwanted sexual behavior to create awareness. At secondary level, programs should be arranged for staff and their parents to educate them on behaviors of sexual victims by a sex educator and train the caregivers on how to respond to a child in case of violence while educating the staff on communication skills to better understand their behavior. The children should also be provided one on one counseling by a trained sex educator and psychologist.

In United Kingdom the self-defense training and assertiveness has created awareness among people with disability. A Belgium program La Violence,Parlons-e performs drama sessions involving the disabled, allowing them to deal with these issues and how to respond in such circumstances.As a nurse, I believe it is important to work in collaboration with NGOs and schools of special education to highlight this sensitive issue in society and help these children fight against such  acts of violence and live a healthy life.


Brown,H.(2000.).Safeguarding adults and children with disability against abuse: Sexual abuse of children with disability. United Kingdom:Council of Europe Publishing.

Mobinuddin, M. (2008).Country Report Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Retrieved from

Mcfeely, C., &Trew, C. (2011).Learning Disabilities and Gender Based Violence: Literature Review Summary. Retrieved…/.

Stopler, D.L., (2007).Hidden Shame Violence against children with disabilities in East Africa.Terre des Hommes Nederland.

Sin,C.H.,Hedges,A.,Cook,C.,Mguni.,&Comber,N.(2009).Disabled people’s experiences of targeted violence and hostility. The Arndale Centre: Manchester.

Treloar, L.L.,(1999).People with Disabilities-the. Same but Different: Implications for Health Care Practice.Journal of Tran cultural Nursing, 10(358), 358-362. DOI: 10.1177/104365969901000414.

Turner, H.A., Vanderminden, J., Finkelhor,D.,Hamby,S.,&Shattuck,A.(2011, November 23).Disability and Victimization in a National Sample of Children and Youth. Child Maltreatment, 16(275), 276-286. DOI: 10.1177-1077559511427178.


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