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Sexuality and Disability India

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Fingers on a blue tactile menstrual cycle chart

Children with disabilities and sexual abuse

Twenty counsellors and therapists working on child sexual abuse joined us for a workshop organised by the HEAL program of The Foundation, as part of their annual stakeholders conference on May 3, 2017.

Nidhi Goyal began the day by exploring myths and realities about disability and sexuality, such as the misguided belief that people with disabilities are either non-sexual or hypersexual. For children with disabilities, Nidhi said, the myth is ‘…yeh kabhi nahi karenge.’ (‘They will never do it.’) Sexuality is never seen as a part of their identity.

Nidhi emphasised the importance of being mindful and adapting to different needs when when engaging with children with disabilities, as well as the importance of accessible information to be available to them. We demonstrated this with our tactile charts, body models and a sign language film on child sexual abuse.

We then moved on to a discussion on the vulnerabilities and challenges faced by children with disabilities, particularly in the context of abuse. ‘Hearing impaired kids are told by parents to not sign in public, as it is “shameful”. Such conditioning interferes when reporting abuse.’ ‘In sign language, there is no word for sexuality and violence. Then how do you talk about it?’ ‘For children with developmental disabilities, reporting abuse becomes difficult as there is a lack of believability and vocabulary.’ These were some of the complexities we discussed.

‘Within POCSO, mostly rape is considered for children with disabilities. (But) other forms of sexual abuse are rarely considered,’ Nidhi added.