1 in 4 girls, 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted by age 18

Published: Mar. 10, 2012 at 3:49 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 20, 2012 at 2:58 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Child advocacy experts say on average, 1 in 4 girls, and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted by the time they turn 18.   The numbers increase significantly for developmentally disabled children.

"90 percent of individuals with disabilities will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime."

Ginny Waller is a victims' advocate with Sexual Trauma Services, which works with victims of sexual assault in the Midlands.

Waller says children who are mentally or physically disabled are considered even more vulnerable.

"You're also looking at individuals who are dependent often times on their perpetrator," said Waller.

Waller says 93 percent of the time, kids with some developmental disability are assaulted by someone they know.

"We're talking about their caretakers, their transportation providers'" said Waller. "They're individuals that are supposed to be taking care of them and that they depend on."

What's more, the crimes largely go unreported.

"Really only 3-5% (of victims) actually ever report" said Waller. "So when you don't have people coming forward, it's very difficult to assess what you're dealing with."

In the case of a Brookland-Cayce High School student, investigators say her teaching assistant had sex with her and fondled her several times,  including once during a Special Olympics competition.

"This was someone who wasn't supposed to hurt them," said Waller.

Waller said cases like this are frustrating because the child or teen may know what was inappropriate behavior. Instead of always focusing on the victim's responsibility leading up to an assault, Waller has other advice:

"The different thing that we tell victims is so interesting because the truth is what we really need to be saying to our community is: don't perpetrate, don't be a rapist."

If you or someone you know has been assaulted, call the Sexual Trauma Services 24/7 hotline at 771-7273.

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