KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Several groups in Missouri have come together to create a guide they hope will highlight and stop abuse towards people living with disabilities.
The "Abuse Awareness and Prevention Guide" was developed by the University of Missouri-Kansas City's Institute for Human Development, the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council and the Missouri Division of Developmental Disabilities.
Experts who helped create the resource explain abuse is a reality for many people living with disabilities that is often not seen.
According to one report from the "Disability and Abuse Project," 70 percent of people with disabilities report being abuse victims.
Maggie Rollwagen with Abilities First, an organization located in Greene County, Missouri, said it's hard to determine how prevalent the issue is.
One reason is that sometimes the victim is less likely to report abuse because they're socially isolated and depend on their abuser.
Rollwagen added it may be difficult for a victim to recognize when sexual abuse happens.
"Many people with disabilities may not understand or they may lack information about healthy sexuality. The types of touching that are appropriate and inappropriate. And this can be especially challenging if a person's disability requires someone to touch them to provide care," explained Rollwagen.
The guide explains four types of abuse and what each looks like. The abuse identified includes:
Candace Cunningham with UMKC's Institute for Human Development helped develop the guide. She explained people should pay attention to a person's behavior and look for changes.
"If you notice they're usually smiling every day, but then come in with their head down or not wanting to interact with people, ask them 'What's going on?'" she said.
The guide also provides a five-step plan for help that includes:
- Be supportive and listen.
- If you're a mandated reporter, contacting the proper authorities depending on the victim's age.
- If you're not a mandated reporter, asking the victim if they want to report the abuse.
- Explaining the resources that are available for help.
- Using a safety planning tool to avoid future danger.
More information on abuse awareness and resources for help can be found on a website by the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council and Arc of Missouri.