New research has found that young people with learning disabilities are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
A group of children’s charities have said that young people with disabilities have the “same vulnerabilities” as all young people but face extra “barriers” to getting protection or support, reports the BBC.
Their report, commissioned by Comic Relief, and was produced by Barnardo’s, the Children’s Society, the British Institute of Learning Disabilities, Paradigm Research and Coventry University, calls on UK authorities to offer “accessible and appropriate” sex and relationships education to children with learning disabilities.
Commenting on the “barriers” stopping children getting protection or support, the report says: “The reasons for this are complex and appear to be entrenched in the way society perceives and treats young people with learning disabilities.”
It says the research “illustrates that the abuse of disabled children is under-reported and often hidden, and that a range of myths and stereotypes surround the abuse they experience”.
“It highlights that disabled children often make clear disclosures of abuse – often multiple disclosures – without being heard,” the report adds.
Researchers found children with learning disabilities and professionals working with them reported a “general lack of attention to sex and relationships education”.
Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said: “No-one wants to believe a child with learning disabilities could ever be exploited in this way, but it is happening all over the UK. A lack of awareness of the needs of these vulnerable children is playing into the hands of perpetrators of sexual exploitation.”
A government spokesman said the research “shines a much-needed spotlight on this tragic and often underestimated abuse. We are exploring how personal, social, health and economic education training and resources could be tailored for staff in special schools, and strengthening guidance for professionals, including teachers, social workers and police officers so they are better equipped to support particularly vulnerable children.”
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