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Men with disabilities more likely to be victims of sexual violence, according to UMMS study

By Jennifer Rosinski

UMass Medical School Communications

October 30, 2015
  Monika Mitra, PhD

Monika Mitra, PhD

Men with disabilities are more likely than men without disabilities to be the victims of sexual violence, according to a national study co-authored by UMass Medical School, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Researchers conclude that sexual assault screening, prevention and response efforts need to be inclusive of all people with disabilities.

The study, Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence against Men with Disabilities, found that men with a disability were also more likely than men without a disability to report lifetime experiences of attempted or completed nonconsensual sex. Published online in October, the study will appear in the March 2016 print edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Although researchers have documented higher rates of violence against individuals with disabilities, most have focused only on women. Few studies have examined lifetime and past-year sexual violence against men with disabilities and the types of perpetrator–survivor relationships among men with disabilities.

Data for the study was gathered from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an annual telephone survey conducted in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Island and Guam. The study used data collected from 2005 to 2007.

The study was led by Monika Mitra, PhD, associate professor of family medicine & community health and a research scientist in the medical school’s Disability, Health and Employment Policy Unit. Co-authors include UMass Medical School’s Carter Pratt, MPH; DPH’s Vera E. Mouradian, PhD; and Michael H. Fox, ScD, of the Division of Human Development and Disability in the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the CDC.

In an earlier study, Dr. Mitra and her co-authors found that men with disabilities are nearly twice as likely to experience lifetime and past-year violence from an intimate partner—which can be a current or former partner or spouse—than men without disabilities. Published in the July 2014 issue of the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Intimate Partner Violence in the Relationships of Men with Disabilities in the United States: Relative Prevalence and Health Correlates, revealed that men with disabilities who are victims of this type of violence are more likely to report poor mental and physical health, suffer from sleep problems and engage in risky behaviors that include binge-drinking.