The Department of Justice just released the first ever study on crimes against persons with disabilities. (Why “persons with disabilities” and not “differently abled people”?) The results of the study are not that surprising and statistically illustrate/prove what many anti-ableist activists have known for a while now – that differently abled people are disproportionately targeted for various crimes, and many of these crimes go undocumented and unnoticed by the public.
Here are some highlights of the study’s findings:
- In 2007 differently abled people were victims of approximately 716,000 nonfatal violent crimes, including rape or sexual assault (47,000), robbery (79,000), aggravated assaults (114,000) and simple assaults (476,000).
- They also experienced around 2.3 million property crimes during the year, including 527,000 household burglaries, 107,000 motor vehicle thefts and 1.7 million thefts.
- Differently abled people between the ages of 12 to 19 and those between the ages of 35 to 49 were victims of violence at nearly twice the rate as able bodied people in the same age group.
- 16% of violent crimes against differently abled females were committed by a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend. Among women without disabilities, it was 27%.
While these statistics may not be news for all of us, they still are startling. It is high time that the Department of Justice and the general public acknowledge the disproportionate amount of violence against differently abled people. It is important to recognize that society is structured in a way that benefits abled bodied folks while making things unfairly difficult for differently abled ones. Differently abled people are more vulnerable because we live in an ableist society where those who are differently abled are marginalized and treated as second-class citizens.
In order to prevent or better address violence against differently abled people it’s important to think of all the socially constructed barriers that differently abled people must wrestle with everyday. What if the world was made more accessible? What if the language we used was more inclusionary? What if there was more coverage of violence against differently abled people so that there is less erasure of an already marginalized community?