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Sexual 'vulnerability' of people with learning difficulties: a self-fulfilling prophecy
Andrea Hollomotz, School of Sociology & Social Policy, University of Leeds
People with learning difficulties are known to be considerably more likely
to experience sexual violence than non-disabled people. They are often
referred to as 'vulnerable'. The assumption of 'vulnerability'
continues to contribute to the reasoning for their protection in segregated
or family settings. However research suggests that most incidents of sexual
violence take place within these supposedly protective environments, in
the context of an ongoing, often intimate relationship. I will argue that
the emphasis on individual 'vulnerability' focuses attention
on the disabled person as the cause of violence. Such a focus is too simplistic.
I will suggest a more holistic analysis of the composition of risk that
takes account of social factors that contribute to its formation: Risk
is not merely influenced by personal attributes and an individual's
particular level of self-defence skills, but also by environmental and
socio-cultural factors. Two case studies of women with learning difficulties
will be outlined to illustrate the main tenets of this argument. The two
women lead distinctly different lives which raises a number of important
questions for further discussion.
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