People with disabilities are victims of violent crimes, physical and sexual abuse, neglect and exploitation at much higher rates than their peers without disabilities. The United States Department of Justice reports that the rate of violent crimes against people with disabilities was more than twice the rate experienced by people without disabilities.

While each situation is unique, most violent crimes occur because people with disabilities are viewed as “easy targets” due to an assumption that they are less capable of defending themselves physically. People with developmental disabilities are at particular risk because their cognitive abilities and social skills may be compromised, making them more susceptible to predators.

In 2009, the Hate Crimes Protection Act was amended to expand protections for people with disabilities. In 2011, when announcing the first charges brought under the amended Act, U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said, “[Individuals with physical and mental disabilities] are among the most vulnerable in our society. They deserve to be treated with respect and compassion, not violence.”

Between 2009 and 2011, nearly one million people with disabilities were victims of violent crimes, including rape, sexual assault, robbery, and physical assault, such as beatings, stabbings and other acts of violence. Unfortunately, these statistics reflect only incidents that were actually reported to law enforcement.

According to the U.S. Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crimes, many victim assistance agencies report that they rarely serve crime victims with disabilities, not because criminal acts don’t occur, but because many people with disabilities are often reluctant to report acts of physical aggression, domestic violence, sexual assault, and other violent crimes.[1] Despite the prevalence of abuse among people with disabilities, more than half of victims never seek assistance from law enforcement. The most common reasons that people gave for not reporting a crime to authorities:

From the US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs (2017)

Current research and victimization statistics are contained in a series of fact sheets produced by the Office for Victims of Crime. “Crimes Against Persons with Disabilities” can be found at 2018NCVRW_VictimsWithDisabilities_508_QC.pdf

For more information and resources on this topic, see “Working With People With Developmental Disabilities As Victims“.

  1. ^Crime Victims with Disabilities, Office for Victims of Crime, retrieved from
  2. ^Victimizations Not Reported to the Police, 2006-2010, Bureau of Justice Statistics, retrieved from