In 2018, NPR ran a series called “Abused and Betrayed” which highlighted the underreported statistics of sexual victimization against individuals with developmental disabilities. NPR found that individuals with developmental disabilities were at risk of sexual abuse at a rate of seven times higher than the general population. Many factors put individuals with developmental disabilities at risk for sexual abuse, including limited knowledge regarding healthy relationships and limited body autonomy.
In response to these alarming statistics presented in the NPR series, ASERT collaborated with the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center at the Medical University of South Carolina to develop the Be Safe Resource Collection. The goal of Be Safe is to increase the availability of knowledge and resources for individuals, caregivers, and professionals with the aim of prevention and intervention of sexual abuse and assault against individuals with autism.
To kick off this resource collection, ASERT created the Ask, Listen, Respect Pledge in 2018. ASERT called on family members, caregivers, and support staff to pledge that they will respect and promote the body autonomy of individuals they care for. Body autonomy is a right of all persons. It is the idea that individuals have a right to have a say about what happens to their bodies. This is especially important for individuals with developmental disabilities who may require support in self-care and daily living skills from family members, caregivers, and support staff. Promoting body autonomy is an essential first step to encouraging a positive and safe environment for all individuals.
The pledge focused on three important components. First, we will ASK an individual before touching them when providing support. Second, we will LISTEN to what the individual says and empower them to make choices about their body. Lastly, we will RESPECT the individual’s choice about their body. We also asked individuals to take the pledge by empowering individuals to make people ASK them for permission before providing physical assistance, LISTEN when they provide decisions about their body, and RESPECT their choice. In the second year of this campaign, we are asking individuals to recommit to this Ask, Listen, Respect pledge.
This year, ASERT will be promoting the Be Safe Resource Collection in honor of April’s Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The Be Safe Resource Collection aims to provide resources and knowledge to individuals, caregivers, and professionals about the prevention of sexual abuse and sexual assault of individuals with autism.
These resources provide information about the rates of sexual abuse and assault, as well as factors that increase risk for sexual abuse or assault. Resources also include tips on how to teach body awareness and body safety, information on teaching relationship building skills, and resources on how to identify and report abuse in children and adults. We have developed infographics, social stories, eLearning courses and other resource materials to make these concepts accessible for many audiences. For more information, check out the Be Safe Collection website at: www.paautism.org/besafe.
We encourage you to continue to the Ask, Listen, Respect Pledge! Click HERE to take the Ask, Listen, Respect Pledge and download the Pledge Card Today!