By Kathleen Stauffer
May 4, 2020
From time to time, despite our best efforts, we all have to face difficult truths. What we do day-to-day at The Arc Eastern Connecticut is rewarding, but it is not easy. A few weeks ago, two news articles reported that a former employee of The Arc New London County was arrested for allegedly assaulting a person we serve. It was The Arc that called the police, and it was our dedicated DSPs who alerted us to their concerns.
In fact, sexual abuse of people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities has been called a national epidemic, and the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities cites research putting the numbers of people with IDD who are sexually abused at “more than 90%.” Reasons, according to NACDD, are systemic failures for people with IDD in the areas of:
•Education about sexual development and anatomy
•Information on abuse awareness
•Healthy relationship education
•Social norm education
•Availability of age‐appropriate friends
Contributing to the problem, according to National Public Radio, whose in-depth exploration of the topic called the crisis “The Sexual Assault Epidemic No One Talks About,” is that people with IDD can have challenges with speech, memory and expressing details. Predators use this to their advantage. (https://www.npr.org/2018/01/08/570224090/the-sexual-assault-epidemic-no-one-talks-about)
The Arc Eastern Connecticut sponsors one of only a handful of educational and therapeutic programs nationwide for people with IDD designed to prevent abuse and support survivors. We can do so because The Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, United Way of Southeastern Connecticut and our annual fundraising events pay for the program.
No leader wants to make a judgment call that will throw an agency and its dedicated team into the headlines. But advocacy goes beyond good news. Because this is America, the alleged perpetrator is innocent unless proven guilty, and the police and courts will do their job. As we move forward, The Arc Eastern Connecticut will keep the community apprised of our work. We aim to set a new standard in education and sex abuse prevention among people with IDD – not just here in Connecticut, but also nationwide. The time for innovative problem-solving is now.
Kathleen Stauffer is chief executive officer of The Arc Eastern Connecticut. For more information on The Arc’s microbusinesses, go to www.TheArcECT.org. For more articles by this author visit www.kathleenstauffer.com