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MT "Silent" Crime Victims Looking for a Voice

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May 31, 2007

Helena, MT - They're being called Montana's silent crime victims -- and now, they're banding together to find a voice. Disability rights groups say the risks of being a crime victim are disproportionately high for people with disabilities. These groups not only want to find ways to help victims recover, but also to raise awareness about protection and prosecution. Beverly Franz of the Institute on Disabilities says several studies have shown children with disabilities are highly likely to be exploited.

"Sixty-eight percent were found to be victims of sexual abuse, and 32 percent were victims of physical abuse. That also holds true for women with disabilities."

Franz calls it unacceptable that a Montanan with a disability is so much more likely to be victimized in the United States.

"People with disabilities are victims of crime at a much higher rate -- not just sexual assault, which is one of the highest -- but also robbery, burglary, and destruction of property."

As with any victim, Franz says crime can have life-changing consequences. A person's physical and emotional health, as well as their financial stability, may suffer as they struggle for weeks, months, and years with the aftermath of victimization. Studies show crime victims experience such problems as decreased productivity, lowered academic performance and ongoing psychological effects, all of which can complicate a disability.

Deborah Smith/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - MT