n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Disabled children as invisible and forgotten victims of crime

Volume 16, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



Children with disabilities who are vicitimsed can be regarded as the forgotten victims of the community and the criminal justice system. Disabled children are more likely to be abused than children without disabilities. According to research (Howe 2000 : 41; Nettelbeck, Wilson, Potter & Perry 2000 : 46, 56; Sherry 2000 : 1; Sobsey, Randall & Perrila, 1997 : 707) children with disabilities experience physical and sexual assault and robbery at rates almost three times those reported by non-disabled children of the community. Myths and misconceptions regarding handicapped children are responsible for uninformed opinions such as : disabled children are not subjected to sexual assault, no one will harm a handicapped child, or that no one will find a disabled child attractive (Kvam 2000 : 1073). One of the major problems connected with knowing of disabled children's experiences is the lack of well-researched evidence. Accurate data on the incidence and prevalence of child abuse in families is not easy to come by. It is contended that a good deal of abuse is not reported to official agencies, such as the police or social services departments, and therefore does not appear on official registers (Bernard 1999 : 327). This paper examines crimes perpetrated against children with disabilities and is one of various research projects identified and researched by the Family Violence, Child Abuse and Sexual Offences Unit (FCS) (Johannesburg) and the Institute for Criminological Science, Unisa.

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