Abuse of the Disabled: Old Problem, New Danger

It’s an all-too-familiar story. Police in Arizona have arrested a 22-year-old man for sexually victimizing a 16-year-old girl with special needs.

People with special needs have always been vulnerable to sexual abuse but these days abusers have help: the Internet.  The teen, it seems, sent the abuser nude photos over email and Facebook and he sent her sexually explicit messages, all of which police found in the course of their investigation.

They arranged to meet, and he admits to touching her, though he knew full-well she was both underage and has a disability. He’s made it clear he had plans to go further, but they were dashed when her parents learned what was going on.

The abuser is being held in jail on three counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of child molestation.  The bond has been set at $100,000.

The system appears to be working here. But this story carries with it ominous overtones. “Facebook and other social networking tools are being used by sexual predators to lure their victims,” says arresting sheriff Paul Babeu. “Unfortunately, in cases like these, we cannot restore lost innocence to the young victims who have been exploited …”

In an era when people with special needs are being increasingly encouraged to engage in the world, we all must redouble our efforts to protect them from those who would take advantage of them. Be it in institutions, the workplace. Or the Internet.

– Jay Ruderman

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