Knowledge is Power: Teaching Sexual Self-Advocacy

Spring 2020 Disability RAPP: The Intersection of Disability and Sexuality

Knowledge is Power: Teaching Sexual Self-Advocacy

By Katherine McLaughlin, M.Ed.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, Special Tabulation, and the National Public Radio series, Abused and Betrayed, people with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) are seven times more likely to be sexual abused than those without. 1

Here are steps to reduce this statistic:

• Believe we are all sexual beings – including people with I/DD – and that we all need sexuality education

• Provide age appropriate, medically accurate, sexuality education

• Provide positive messages – not fear-based language – about sexuality

• Empower individuals with I/DD to be sexual self-advocates

• Train individuals with I/DD to be sexuality educators

• Increase training opportunities for staff, caregivers, and self-advocates regarding individuals with I/DD and sexuality education

Sexuality education is the first line of defense for all people, but especially those with developmental disabilities. Even if you agree that sexuality education is important, there are many reasons why you might not want to talk about it:

• You may not know how to begin, or what topics to cover.

• You may know what to say, but don’t know how old a person should be before you start the conversation.

• You may fear that talking about it will encourage sexual activity.

• You may not even know what you believe regarding sexuality.

But you can learn! In collaboration with Community Support Network Inc., the Developmental Disabilities Council, and Elevatus Training, there will soon be an all-day, Concord-based training for parents and professionals on how to address sexuality and sexual abuse prevention, and an all-day workshop for people with disabilities on Becoming a Sexual Self-Advocate. By providing accurate and practical educational materials and trainings we hope to elevate, educate, and navigate this topic. Many people have said that talking about sexuality was much easier than they thought it would be, and have gained confidence in this area with just a little support.

Statewide sexuality trainings are a powerful, proactive step towards empowering and educating individuals with I/DD, and helping to identify and prevent sexual abuse. Let’s all work on helping people with I/DD lead healthy lives with positive and enriching relationships. Together, we can make a difference.

Katherine McLaughlin, M.Ed. trains individuals, staff, and parents on sexuality and developmental disabilities.

Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, Special Tabulation.

Spring 2020 Disability RAPP: The Intersection of Disability and Sexuality


Welcome to the newly renamed and redesigned Disability RAPP. The themes explored in each issue, like this issues’ focus on the intersection of disability and sexuality, inform us and empower us to break barriers and challenge traditional ideas of what it means to live with a disability. We updated the Disability RAPP design to be more accessible in both its print and digital formats.

Certain content contains sensitive material which may not be appropriate for all readers.

DRC-NH, in collaboration with the UNH Institute on Disability and the New Hampshire Council on Developmental Disabilities, distribute a quarterly RAP sheet to educate community members and policy makers about the latest research, policy, practice, and advocacy issues affecting individuals with disabilities and their families.


Latest RAP Sheet