Senate State Affairs Committee Public Testimony on Senate Bill 71

Public Policy Input — 2019


TCDD logo   Mary Durheim, Chair
Andrew D. Crim, Vice Chair
Beth Stalvey, MPH, PhD, Executive Director

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Senate State Affairs Committee
Public Testimony on Senate Bill 71
February 28, 2019

Hello, my name is Ashley Ford and I am a Public Policy and Communications Specialist with the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD). TCDD is established by state and federal law and is governed by 27 Governor-appointed board members, 60 percent of whom are individuals with developmental disabilities (DD) or family members of individuals with disabilities. The Council’s purpose in law is to encourage policy change so that people with disabilities have opportunities to be fully included in their communities and exercise control over their own lives. My testimony identifies two considerations for people with developmental disabilities in relation to the provisions of Senate Bill 71.

Historical conceptualizations of people with disabilities that diminished their humanity, continue to perpetuate the victimization of people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD). Research consistently tells us that there is a “silent” epidemic of sexual assault victimization among people with disabilities, especially among people with I/DD 1. While the numbers may vary among different studies, the typical prevalence of sexual assault among people with developmental disabilities ranges from four to ten times higher than among people without disabilities.2,3

Consideration 1: Health care professionals conducting forensic medical examinations may require additional training and technical assistance to effectively serve sexual assault survivors with I/DD

People with I/DD frequently face communication, physical, programmatic, and attitudinal barriers when they try to get an exam and make a report. Health care professionals conducting forensic medical examinations play a crucial role in removing these barriers. Efforts must be made to enhance more professionals’ capacity to effectively serve survivors with I/DD. Adequate, specialized training and technical assistance for professionals who come in contact with people with I/DD who are survivors of sexual assault will both improve professionals’ interactions with, and understanding of, people with I/DD.

Statistics Related to the Sexual Assault of People with Disabilities

  • Children with disabilities are three times more likely to be the victims of sexual abuse than children without disabilities. Among children with intellectual disabilities, this number jumps to 4.6.4
  • People with intellectual disabilities who are older than 11 are sexually assaulted at a rate seven times higher than those without disabilities.5
  • Nearly 80 percent of women with DD will experience some form of sexual assault at some time in their lives.6
  • Only 3 percent of sexual abuse cases involving people with DD are ever reported.7
  • 80 percent of women survivors with DD have been sexually assaulted more than once – 50 percent assaulted 10 or more times.8
  • 97 percent to 99 percent of perpetrators are known to the victim.9


Consideration 2: Disability advocates should be consulted for the implementation of the statewide telehealth center for sexual assault forensic examination and facilitated training.

The statewide telehealth center for sexual assault forensic examination presents an opportunity to optimize the system’s capacity to serve people with I/DD who are survivors of sexual assault. Because survivors with I/DD may have different needs than survivors without disabilities, it is important for advocates with expertise in disabilities to be included among the consulting entities listed under the bill’s new Sec. 420.107, Government Code. Whatever the efforts may be, the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities is uniquely positioned to support a statewide enhancement of services, supports, and lives of survivors with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.

Please feel free to contact TCDD for additional information or if we can be of additional service.


Ashley Ford
Public Policy and Communications Specialist
Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities

1. Sobsey, D., & Mansell, S. (1994). An international perspective on patterns of sexual assault and abuse of people with disabilities. International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, 7, 153-178.”1

2. Mikton, C., Maguire, H., & Shakespeare, T. (2014). A systematic review of the effectiveness of interventions to prevent and respond to violence against persons with disabilities. Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

3. Harrell, E. (2017). Crime against persons with disabilities, 2009‐2015‐ statistical tables. Report from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.

4. Lund, Emily M., and Vaughn-Jensen, J. (2012). “Victimisation of Children with Disabilities.” The Lancet, Volume 380 (Issue 9845), 867-869

5. Shapiro, J. (2018). The Sexual Assault Epidemic No One Talks About. National Public Radio. Retrieved from alt=”Link to citiation 5″.

6. Baladerian, N., Coleman, T. & Steam, J. (2013). A report on the 2012 national survey on abuse of people with disabilities: Victims and their families speak out. Spectrum Institute Disability and Abuse Project. Retrieved from

7. Valenti-Hein, D., & Schwartz, L. D. (1995). Sexual Abuse Interview for those With Developmental Disabilities. Santa Barbara, California: James Stanfield Company.

8. Sobsey, D., & Doe, T. (1991). Patterns of sexual abuse and assault. Journal of Sexuality and Disability, 9(3), 243-59

9. Davis, L. (2009). People with Intellectual Disability and Sexual Violence. The Arc. Retrieved from