People with disabilities are victims of violent crime three times as often as people without disabilities. The Bureau of Justice Statistics does not report separately on autistic victims, but it does note that the victimization rate is especially high among those whose disabilities are cognitive. A small-sample study of Americans and Canadians found that adults with autism face a greater risk of sexual victimization than their peers. Autistic respondents were more than twice as likely to say that had been the victim of rape and over three times as likely to report unwanted sexual contact.
A release from Michigan House Democrats:
As co-chairmen of the legislative Disabilities Awareness Caucus, state Rep. Frank Liberati and state Sen. Rick Jones have introduced bipartisan legislation that would increase penalties for assaulting an individual with a developmental disability.
“As a board member and longtime volunteer of the Michigan Special Olympics, I find it horrific that someone would knowingly assault a person with special needs,” said Jones (R-Grand Ledge). “People with disabilities can often have difficulty caring for themselves and protecting themselves. We must crack down hard on the kind of criminal who would assault a person with a disability.”
House Bills 5728 and 5729 and Senate Bills 1017 and 1018 aim to prevent harm to individuals with disabilities by creating a harsher punishment for those who know of a person’s disability and are guilty of assault or assault and battery on that person.
Under the bills, a first offense for someone convicted of assaulting an individual with a developmental disability and knowing that individual has a disability would be guilty of a misdemeanor and face up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Subsequent offenses would result in felony charges punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
“Not only does this legislation increase penalties for assault of a person with a disability, it gets to the bigger issue of needing to create a culture of respect and dignity,” said Liberati (D-Allen Park). “It is time to show this community has a voice and through this legislation they will be heard.”
The Disabilities Awareness Caucus is a bipartisan, bicameral effort that focuses its attention on policy issues facing those with a disability.