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People with disabilities, including men, face elevated risk of sexual abuse

(KTAR News Photo)

PHOENIX – People with disabilities, including men, face an elevated risk of being sexual abuse victims, an issue that’s in the spotlight after an incapacitated woman gave birth in Phoenix last month.

“This is a problem that’s happening all over our communities in far too many settings and has to be addressed immediately,” disability rights advocate Jon Meyers, executive director of The Arc of Arizona, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.

Meyers said people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are up to seven times more likely to be sexually abused than the general population.

On Dec. 29, a 29-year-old woman who can’t speak and has very limited movement had a baby at the Hacienda HealthCare facility in Phoenix. Nathan Sutherland, a nurse who worked at the long-term care center, was arrested Jan. 23 for allegedly raping the woman after investigators matched his DNA to the child’s.

“This is happening in workplaces, it’s happening in schools, it’s happening in community centers, it’s happening in private homes. … It’s not just in institutional settings or medical care facilities,” Meyers said.

The Arc’s national organization is bringing attention to an element of the problem that often gets ignored, “that men are victims as well,” Meyers said.

He said men with disabilities who are traumatized by sexual abuse often don’t speak out about it or understand what happened.

To address the issue, The Arc is helping develop resources that doctors, social workers and other health care professionals can use to work with male victims.

“We need to work harder to teach men with disabilities and we need to listen to them when they let us know that something has happened to them,” Meyers said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Taylor Kinnerup contributed to this report.

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