A few weeks ago, a fourteen year old autistic girl got off of her school bus in Rutheford County, TN, at eight o’clock in the morning. Immediately after, a 36 year old man picked her up, pulled her into his truck, and drove away with her. He returned her to the school bus at 4:00 that afternoon, after holding her all day, and raping her. Repeatedly.
While this is terrifying, and begs all sorts of questions, (Where were school officials when an autistic child was picked up by a stranger first thing in the morning?), it is hardly unusual. In fact, current estimations are that nearly 70% of all girls with developmental disabilities will be sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday. As well as 30% of boys with developmental disabilities.
What’s worse, frequently it’s easier for attackers to get away with these crimes. Some of these children, like the above autistic girl, have severe difficulties communicating. The issue becomes less, “he says, she says,” and becomes, “Somebody else says yes, he says no.” Without an accuser who can step forward, frequently there is nothing that the law can do. Even in the case where the victim is a child.
This girl was, in a sense, lucky. The evidence against her attacker is solid, and he is unlikely to escape without jail time. But for that to be our measure of “luck” in the case of the sexual abuse of mentally handicapped children… well… we could all stand to be a whole lot luckier.
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