8 Jun

There’s a lot of talk of rape and sexual assault in my Facebook feed thanks to the fact that we still have to explain what rape and sexual assault is to some people.

You know who I’m talking about.

As a woman, I am concerned. As a mom to sons, I have done my best to teach them right and wrong, consent and not consent. If a girl says “no” or “stop” to anything – being tickled, a cup of tea, singing “Don’t Stop Believing” at her – it means No and Stop. Stop singing at her. Don’t force the tea on her. Stop tickling her.

And then I look at my daughters, and I know that not every parent is teaching their sons the things I’ve taught mine.

I read yet another campus rape statistic as my older daughter talks about what college she wants to go to and a bolt of fear races through me. I have asked her flat out “You do know how to knee a guy in the groin, right?” Her father shows her self-defense moves. I’ve told her how if she’s ever being followed by a guy, to yell “Stop following me you pervert!” as yelling and drawing attention is a good thing. My daughter is not a meek person. But I worry for her.

And then, there’s Maura. And the fear I have for her sister multiples and almost paralyzes me.

I have one daughter who can defend herself and I worry for her. But I have another daughter who can’t defend herself, who I’m supposed to place into the care of strangers, and the terror is enough to floor a person.

I went to look up the stats for this piece, and the second hit in my search was from the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, and it read as follows –

“People with disabilities experience domestic or sexual violence at a higher rate than people without disabilities. Here are some of the grim statistics:

  • Dr. Brian Armour of the Centers for Disease Control has found that women with a disability are significantly more likely than women without a disability to experience domestic violence in their lifetime, 37.3% vs. 20.6%. Women with a disability are much more likely to have a history of unwanted sex with an intimate partner, 19.7% vs. 8.2% (Armour, 2008).
  • 80% of women and 30% of men with intellectual disabilities have been sexually assaulted. 50% of those women have been assaulted more than ten times (Sobsey & Doe, 1991; Sorenson, 2000).
  • 83% of women with disabilities will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime (Stimpson & Best, 1991). Only 3% of sexual abuse cases involving people with developmental disabilities are ever reported (Valenti-Hein and Schwartz, 1995).
  • 54% of boys who are Deaf have been sexually abused, compared to 10% of boys who are hearing. 50% of girls who are Deaf have been sexually abused, compared to 25% of girls who are    hearing (Sullivan, Vernon & Scanlan, 1987).”

I looked around the internet some more and these were pretty much the same numbers everywhere.

I have a daughter who has an 83% chance of being sexually assaulted. If that doesn’t make you throw up in your mouth a little, then you’re not fully human.

I don’t even know what to say. You want to know what keeps me awake at night? Stuff like this. You want to know why I have never-ending anxiety over my disabled daughter’s life? It’s not over if she’ll ever be independent, or if she’ll ever learn to read. No, it’s statistics like this. It’s knowing that the abuse rates of every kind are disgustingly higher for her, and yet I have to breathe through my fears and place her into the hands of strangers and pray they do well by her. I have to trust that other parents have taught their sons and daughters how to understand “no” and “stop” and how to be kind to those who struggle more than them, and stand up for those being bullied or tormented by peers. I have to read news stories about special ed students being abused one way or another, read stories about unconscious college girls being sexually assaulted, and realize that if any of this happens to my disabled daughter and there’s no good Samaritans to intervene, I may never know, because my disabled daughter can’t tell me. And I wonder, if she is assaulted in any way, will we be believed? Or will it be a case of “She can’t give her side of the story, so we’ll just listen to the accused’s side of the story.”?

Because there’s an 83% chance of such a thing happening to her.

Do we live our lives in fear? Do we hide our daughter from the world?


Do I have a cold streak of fear flash through me at that 83% chance?


I’ve often said that having a child with special needs is like dealing with PTSD, except you’re never “post” anything. This is one of those things that keeps me from getting post-stress.

Because 83%.











16 Responses to “83%”

  1. nanis June 8, 2016 at 11:47 am #

    This post breaks my heart. I have a grown daughter, and I worried sick about this very thing when she was a teenager, and though she is now an adult, I still worry. She travels some (internationally) in her job, and she lives in the city. I worry.

    I have had nightmares wherein I offer to be raped to keep her safe.

    My daughter is not handicapped, but she is female, so I worry. I can only slightly imagine your fear, but I can imagine it.

    The education has to be to the boys. They need to know what’s right and wrong, and that if they do wrong, they will be punished. Girls need to be believed and not made ashamed if they report these assaults. We need to stop the ‘boys will be boys’ attitude, and adopt a zero tolerance for sexual crimes. And, yes, uninvited sex, or non-consensual sex, is a crime. Period.

    I know I am ranting, but this topic really gets me going.

    • franhunne4u June 8, 2016 at 12:09 pm #

      And then there are fathers like that rapist’s one, who say “Boohoo, my special little snowflake will be on the sex-offender register for his whole life for 20 minutes of action” – and you know NOT EVERY parent will do their best that women and girls can live without these fears.

      • phoebz4 June 8, 2016 at 12:37 pm #

        Which is why we’ve also taught our sons that if they see another guy taking advantage of an unconscious/really drunk female (or not) to intervene. Yell something. Call police. Help the girl get to safety.

      • franhunne4u June 8, 2016 at 1:04 pm #

        You, Phoebe, are a good parent. Not as if your readers wouldn’t know that already. I am not talking about parents like you. I am talking about this father who cannot accept that his son has done something despicable and should be held responsible for that.

      • phoebz4 June 8, 2016 at 1:12 pm #

        Oh I know. It makes me mad that other parents aren’t doing their job, so I have to teach my boys how to intervene in such cases.

      • franhunne4u June 8, 2016 at 1:17 pm #

        And I am glad you have taught them not to be heroes – they should inform the police, immediately. They should only stop the man, when they are certain they will come out alive and well – no use being a dead hero.

      • Carol Gay June 10, 2016 at 9:42 am #

        “taking advantage of an unconscious/really drunk female (or not)”

        Let’s change female to person. While maybe not as frequent, males are also assaulted and our sons and daughters need to be prepared to help them, too.

      • franhunne4u June 10, 2016 at 10:36 am #

        You are right, it’s just this case was about a young woman being assaulted. Of course men are assaulted, too. Some in prisons, others at the hands of paedophiles and in war-torn regions of this world some parties use rape of men as a tool to terrify their opponents.
        I am just not sure if it happens a lot in college, while rape of young women does.

      • Carol Gay June 10, 2016 at 11:18 am #

        “I am just not sure if it happens a lot in college, while rape of young women does.”

        Not at the rate of women, but as I know of several young men who have been raped on college campuses, or college campus environments, If all we do is have our sons prepared to help young women, what would they do if they came across a situation with a young man? Will they see a man as needing their help in the same way they do a woman? As far as we’ve come we aren’t totally rid of men are macho and should take care of themselves, or male bullying, or homophobia.

      • franhunne4u June 10, 2016 at 11:34 am #

        I stand corrected then.

  2. momocular June 8, 2016 at 12:05 pm #

    Those percentages are terrifying. 😦 Something has to change in our society. Now.

  3. particlewoman June 8, 2016 at 1:17 pm #

    Oh my god. That is terribly alarming and absolutely horrifying. Those numbers should never be that high!!! I’m trying not to use profanity in my exclamations here, yet that’s what’s coming to mind first as I freak out over those statistics, and all the conversations I’ve been listening to lately in response to the Turner case. I just feel like our culture is like “yep, that’s life” with so many things like sexual assault, rape, homicides, gun violence.. “yeah that’s how it goes.” NO. NONONONONONONO.

    I am doing what I can by raising a boy who I regularly teach about boundaries, consent, respect, etc. Like you said, it’s tickling and singing now, it’s more later. But it starts right now, the concept of consent, of understanding body language, of getting that sometimes it’s “no,” sometimes it’s “stop,” and sometimes it’s a grimace or a person freezing up around you, and you have to pay attention to all of it! (My 5 yr old is so literal that for a little while when I said no, he’d still bug me because I didn’t say the word, “stop.” So that’s when all the extra clarification had to come in for him!)

    This is absolutely the stuff that makes parents have anxiety attacks forever. It’s so hard.

  4. Carol Gay June 10, 2016 at 9:39 am #

    Sh@#, f&%*, da%#!

    I’m feeling but the tiniest bit of your fear and I am almost paralyzed. Da%#!


  5. Nicki Rammer Jammer Savage July 25, 2016 at 9:44 pm #

    I’m one of the 83%-ers.

    I survived a crap ton of things I don’t even want to think about. And I’ve spent over half my life as a sexual assault survivor. I’m only 31. 23 of those years have been spent in victimhood, trying to get back to my life.

    I was eight. Nothing was done. And at the time, my parents didn’t know *what* I had; they just knew something seemed off about me.

    It’s truly chilling. I hope your daughters stay safer than I did, Phoebe.

  6. Pinkspen March 25, 2017 at 10:14 pm #

    I am completely heartbroken reading this. It’s important information, thank you for sharing, but it’s a sad reality. My biggest fear is someone hurting my daughter in this way! I will kill anyone about mine….smh…… thank you for raising awareness. I had no idea of those statistics.


  1. To the women over forty and the twenty-somethings who write about them | Herding Cats - June 10, 2016

    […] post? Awesome! But I’d rather you share this more sobering post with a horrifying statistic. 83% of women with disabilities will experience sexual assault in their lifetime. Most people don’t know that. While we’re being kick-ass in our style choices, […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: