Sexual Assault Awareness Month is in full swing at the University of Memphis, and disabled sexual assault victims were one of the things discussed this week.

Abby Kindervarter, a Title IX prevention specialist at the UofM, said there are ways we can help the disabled feel safe from abuse.

“I think the first step is raising awareness of how much of an issue this is, raising awareness and holding people accountable,” Kindervater said. “Sometimes sexual assault happens with people with disabilities because their caretakers are taking advantage of them, so we want those people to be held accountable.” 

The term “disabled” refers to a person who has a physical or mental condition that limits movement, senses or other activities. People with disabilities are three times more likely to be sexually abused than those without disabilities.

What is attention-getting is 83 percent of disabled women will be sexually assaulted in their lives. Usually when a disabled person tries to report the incident with someone, they are not taken seriously and sometimes they have challenges with communication and a lack of assistance to report the crime. In some cases, disabled people are sexually abused by their caregiver, which results in fear of reporting the abuse and then receiving punishment from the caregiver as a result.

Statistics also show a trend of sexual assault victims with specific disabilities.

People who are deaf have been sexually assaulted more than people who are not. Half of girls and just over half of boys who are deaf have been sexual abused while only a quarter of girls and a tenth of boys without this disability have been abused. 

Anyone with an intellectual disability is sexually abused seven times higher than those without it.

“The numbers are pretty staggering in terms of how many people are sexually assaulted,” Kindervater said. “People think about disability as just a visible disability, but many people have disabilities that are not visible and that makes them a more vulnerable population.”

There are more upcoming events involving the topic of sexual assault. The Diversity and Inclusion Celebration with sexual violence prevention activities will take place April 12, the Healthy Relationship Fair will take place April 16 and Denim Day, the last event, will take place April 24, along with other campus activities.

You can follow @uofm_IX, @uofmsafetynet or @uofmsapac to find out more information about how to help sexual assault victims as well as Safety Net and SAPAC’s involvement and leadership opportunities. Information can also be found on the National Disability Rights Network at

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