Thousands of adults with learning disabilities across the UK have been sexually abused in the past 2 years, according to figures obtained by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme.
The BBC investigation found that there were 4,748 reports of sexual abuse against adults with disabilities over the past two years. Of these, 63% were against people with learning disabilities.
These figures were compiled after the Victoria Derbyshire programme submitted Freedom of Information requests to all 152 councils in England with adult social services responsibilities, asking how many reports of sexual abuse of people with disabilities they had recorded over the financial years 2013-14 and 2014-15, up to February 16. It received information from 106 councils.
Speaking to the BBC show, Jon Brown, head of sexual abuse programmes at children's charity NSPCC, described the cases as just "the visible peak" of a much larger problem. "We know with sexual abuse that many victims find it difficult to speak out," he added.
This suggests that the real figure may be much greater. Indeed, the figures only relate to adults. "We know from research that disabled children and young people are three or four times more likely to be abused and neglected than children and young people who are not disabled,” Brown added.
Noelle Blackman, chief executive of charity Respond, agreed. She told the programme: “What we're [Respond] really noticing at the moment is young people being abused by other young people.
“Often the perpetrators don't have a learning disability, and often there will be gangs of boys who don't have a disability who are grooming girls who do, which is a really worrying trend."
Both charities called for action to address the issue, including raising more awareness of it and providing more training to professionals to ensure people are more willing to report abuse.
In response, the Local Government Association said that “councils work hard to ensure support is available when cases of abuse are referred.”