Helping people with learning disabilities stay safe

 

People with learning disabilities can often be victims of hate crime and harassment, whether this is in their home or communities or online, because they are seen as ‘different’ or ‘vulnerable’. . The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities has created two easy read guides to help people with learning disabilities know how to keep safe. Staying Safe Out and About has information about keeping safe when people are out in their communities. Staying Safe on Social Media and Online tells people how to keep safe when using facebook, twitter and emails. 

 

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It’s time to make hate crime against disabled people more visible

Hate crimes against people with disabilities are widespread and often involve extraordinary levels of sadism. The first step in combating these shameful incidents is an acknowledgment that they exist. They are often unacknowledged and unreported.

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In Scotland a disabled man who has twice been the victim of serious assaults has urged other hate crime victims to be brave and go to the police.Stephen Cruickshank, 56, was tipped out of his wheelchair and kicked and spat on in separate terrifying attacks.The ex-pub boss admits he did not report the incidents because he was so traumatised.

Stephen suffers from spinal neuropathy and he struggles to walk, relying on his wheelchair to get around.
Last year a group of thugs tipped him out and ran off with his chair as he lay helpless on the pavement in Rutherglen, Glasgow.
In another incident, he had his walking sticks kicked away by a group of men who then kicked and spat on him while Christmas shopping.Workmen came to his rescue and urged him to contact police – but he refused and headed home.

Four years ago, Stephen got a severe kicking in Glasgow city centre as he struggled into town to buy Christmas presents for his wife Morven and daughter Hayley, now 10.“The attack was so vicious, I thought I’d never get up again.”
But now Stephen, who’s involved in a Police Scotland-backed scheme aimed at helping hate crime victims, says it’s time to take on the bullies.

Earlier this month it was revealed that there had been a 12 per cent increase in the number of reported crimes against the disabled.
But Stephen claims that many more incidents go unreported.
He reckons only one in five disability hate crimes are ever investigated by police. “The scandal here isn’t the increase, it’s the fact that so few of us report these crimes.
“I talk to so many disabled people across Scotland and there are lots of reasons why they don’t report crimes committed against them.
“People are scared of reprisals because often their abusers aren’t strangers.“Disabled people can be victimised by their friends, or even family members.”

Stephen now works at a Third Party Reporting initiative, which is backed by Police Scotland.
Helpers submit reports of hate crime to police on the victim’s behalf.
Stephen spends several days each week supporting other disabled people.

In the USA in February 2010, Jennifer Daugherty, a 30-year-old, mentally challenged woman from Greensburg, Pa., was brutally people pretending to be her good friends. Holding her hostage for days, the perpetrators allegedly tortured her, shaving her head, binding her with Christmas decorations, beating her with a towel rack and vacuum cleaner, feeding her detergent, urine and various medications and then forcing her to write a suicide note, before stabbing her to death.
The sadistic attack on Daugherty was anything but unique. Still, few Americans are aware of the special vulnerability of people with emotional, intellectual and physical disabilities to extraordinary violence.

Thirty-two states have hate crime statutes to protect people who have disabilities, but 18 states still do not.
Attacks on people with disabilities are often overlooked because many people are not aware of the extreme vulnerability to maltreatment that accompanies such disorders as cerebral palsy, autism, multiple sclerosis, learning disabilities and mental illness — even though, according to anonymous victim accounts from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the 54 million Americans with disabilities experience serious violence at a rate nearly twice that of the general population. Their risk of being a victim of sexual assault is at least four times higher than that of people without disabilities. In 2008 alone, Americans with disabilities were victims of about 47,000 rapes, 79,000 robberies, 114,000 aggravated assaults and 476,000 simple assaults. Adding to the trauma of victimization, people with disabilities are much less likely than able-bodied victims to seek medical treatment for their injuries, often choosing, instead, to suffer in silence.

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The project Children with disabilities: targeted violence and hostility is currently looking at hostility, including violence, towards children with disabilities across the EU. It seeks to identify the legal and policy framework, as well as determine how information about such hostility is being collected. In addition, the project will look for examples of promising practices of how some Member States are addressing the problem. A report and comparative studies will be published this year (2014)

 

Bullying of disabled children was rife 7 years ago. Has anything changed?

Children and young people with learning disabilities were  more likely to face bullying than their peers, according to the charity Mencap in a 2007 survey. The statistics were appalling Has anything changed  for the better?

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In the report published in 2007, the charity found that 82% of children with learning disabilities are bullied and 79% are scared to go out because they are frightened they might be bullied.
These figures had risen since the previous year, when 69% of children surveyed by Bullying Online said they had been bullied.
Mencap’s survey of more than 500 children with learning disabilities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland found that 58% had been physically hurt by bullies, while 27% said they had been bullied for three years or more. Some 36% of the children surveyed said the bullying did not stop when they told someone.
More than half of the children surveyed who had been bullied (53%) said they stayed away from places where they had been taunted in the past and 56% said they cried as a result of bullying, with 33% hiding in their rooms.
Mencap says bullying linked to disability wrecks children’s lives and leads to social exclusion in childhood and adulthood. Its campaign, Don’t stick it, stop it!, launches today, and the charity wants to push the government to take disablist bullying as seriously as all other forms of prejudice-based attacks.
The charity wants to see the government produce guidance for schools, children’s service and youth organisations on how to tackle disablist bullying.

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Dame Jo Williams, Mencap’s chief executive, said: “These shocking findings show how big a problem bullying is for children with a learning disability.”
Bullying takes place everywhere, inside and outside of the classroom, Dame Williams said. “Children said they were bullied everywhere they went, on the bus, at youth centres, in parks and on the street. It happens outside the playground but also inside the school gates. Many children are too afraid to go out for fear they will be bullied.”
Children with learning disabilities are missing out on opportunities to learn and make friends, socialise and play, she said. “If action is not taken to tackle bullying, children with a learning disability will face bullying and isolation all their lives.”

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Al Aynsley-Green, children’s commissioner for England, said: “I am very concerned by the findings of this report. All forms of bullying can have a serious and detrimental impact on children’s lives.
“The bullying of children with a learning disability is of particular concern to me as they more likely to be bullied than most other groups of children, meaning that they are unable to enjoy a fun and active school, and social life. We must take steps to tackle bullying now and provide children with the appropriate skills, tools and support to give them the confidence to tackle bullying.”

What has been done ‘to tackle bullying now and provide children with the appropriate skills, tools and support to give them the confidence to tackle bullying’.

Prejudice and discrimination

Although we do not like to admit it, we all have prejudices. However in  fair society  we must try to  ensure that our prejudices do not become discrimination.

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My sons  – both black and disabled!

Prejudice is an unjustified or inaccurate attitude towards an individual based solely on the individual’s membership of a  group. Many people will have prejudices against people  with disability, people of a different colour or those who are different from them in some way. They may think that having children with disabilities in their school will affect the progress of other children; they may think that all people  with disabilities are stupid, difficult or incapable of following the regular curriculum, unable to work, have relationships or be full members of society. Although it would be better if we  were not prejudiced, must of us are, one way or another, we  to ensure that prejudices do not become discrimination. We have to be sure that we do not discriminate, whatever our personal prejudices may be. Discrimination occurs when an individual or group behave in a negative way towards an individual or group of people, such as people with disabilities. A prejudiced person may not act on their attitude. So someone can be prejudiced towards a certain group but not discriminate against them. Discrimination involves behaviour and that is what we  can control – we  cannot control attitudes. But you may think otherwise! However, prejudiced attitudes are often changed when people have contact with the group they were prejudiced against. They realise that their attitudes were inaccurate. However, close contact sometimes hardens prejudices. Why not challenge yourself to think about prejudice and discrimination. What should the education system be doing to challenge this discrimination? Think about what you could do. What could you do yourself to challenge this discrimination? Whose discriminatory behaviour should you challenge? Think about yourself.  What are your prejudices? Is any of your own behaviour discriminatory? Remember that disabled people can be equally prejudiced, as can black people and other groups who are themselves the victims  of prejudice and discrimination.

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