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Boston Initiative Trains Intellectually Disabled Teens To Resist Abuse

People with developmental disabilities are up to 10 times more likely than others to experience domestic violence or sexual abuse, according to a study from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. But a new program in Boston Public Schools is empowering the disabled to fight back.

Meg Stone is with Malden-based disability services provider Triangle. She says abuse prevention for the disabled has particular challenges.

“People with disabilities are often in a position in which other people are involved in their intimate care and their activities of daily living,” Stone said.

Things like getting dressed, bathing and other things, “And there are times when those acts of intimate care are provided in a way that doesn’t respect the person’s privacy and the person’s integrity,” she said. “And for some people with disabilities, that teaches them that their privacy is not important, that you know, anybody can touch them in any way possible. And for lack of a better way of putting it, that makes a perpetrator’s job easier.”

So Stone and her colleagues developed a program they call IMPACT: Ability, a 10-week course that trains the disabled to recognize their personal boundaries, assert them, and if necessary, defend them by force. Starting this school year, they’ve been given a $500,000 matching grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to offer the class to special education students in the Boston Public Schools.

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  • Anonymous

    Aren’t a lot of caretakers victims of assaults by people with limited mental abilities?  Teaching them to poke out eyes might not be the best idea. 
    Also if the abuse is often from caretakers whom the victims would know intimately, doesn’t his wearing sunglasses lead the students to think they need to fear strangers and not to be cautious of someone they know who is more likely to be the abuser. 

  • Meg Stone

    There is not good data showing that people with disabilities assault caregivers in large numbers. The data on the prevalence of abuse perpetrated against people with disabilities is much more robust and much more clear. IMPACT:Ability does teach people skills to address both strangers and familiar perpetrators. We also take great care to assess each group before determining which (if any) physical skills to teach. We only teach physical skills to groups that have demonstrated that they are effectively using verbal and other strategies.

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