War on men and children

To the Editor:

Disability Rights Vermont and Vermont Legal Aid are suing Adult Protective Services for not protecting vulnerable adults. In recent months there has been little coverage of the lawsuit. The coverage I have read fails to shed understanding on the critical issue of who the abusers and victims are. I think it's about time we start getting educated about who APS should be investigating.

While research shows that more than half of abuse of people with disabilities is abuse by family and peers with disabilities, the other half is something you don't hear a peep about and may be at the heart of why so many reports go uninvestigated and why Vermont Human Services under-funds APS.

Disability professionals (i.e., paid or unpaid caregivers, doctors, and nurses) are generally believed responsible for the other half of abuse against people with disabilities. In addition, approximately 67 percent of perpetrators who abused individuals with severe cognitive disabilities accessed them through their work in disability services. (Sobsey, D. and T. Doe. 1991. "Patterns of sexual abuse and assault." Journal of Sexuality and Disability, 9(3): 243259.)

Since it is Vermont Human Services that oversees agencies providing services, substantiating abuse by caregivers creates an obvious conflict. They would make themselves look bad.

In an Evaluation of Vermont APS by NASUAD which can be found at http://dail.vermont.gov/dail-publications/special-reports-documents/vt-aps-nasuad-study-2012, page 17, you'll see that while other APS substantiates between 46percent and 58 percent of reports, Vermont APS only substantiates 11 percent of reports of abuse. In 2010, only 2 percent of cases were substantiated; over the last decade, the substantiation rate has been closer to 10 percent. The national average is 42 percent.

About 70 percent of the 3,000 to 4,000 complaints filed each year are reported by professionals -- caregivers, medical personnel, social workers and law enforcement officials. "If trained professionals are making these reports, you'd expect more than a single digit to be substantiated," Ken Gordon, head of the AAAGordon said. (VT Digger Aug. 2011)

An unsigned summary on the DAIL website interprets this evaluation as supporting Vermont APS practices. It seems APS is more concerned about defending bad practices than protecting people. APS did take the opportunity to spend money on a new "data system that will allow for data-driven decision-making". http://dail.vermont.gov/dail-publications/special-reports-documents/aps-update-february-2012

I am a mother of a person with a disability and I can tell you that the standard of treatment isn't set by data. I've reported abuse after abuse to APS, serious reports. If they do follow up, it's only after I make repeated calls on my son's behalf. You have to be dogged about it, people are rude and act like you're really bothering them when you call. I even had one woman impatiently say to me, "I've had a really hard day." If I were a disabled person trying to report being abused, I would have been devastated.

There are a lot of myths out there about who is abused as well as who the abusers are. We are led to believe that men are primarily the abusers. We are bombarded with reports of men victimizing women and children but when you look at the statistics you find:

As many as 1 in 5 males will be sexually abused before the age of 18. One in five adult rape victims are male. (Federal Bureau of Investigation in the US, or FBI)

1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 16th birthday. (US Department of Justice)

In one study of 30 male victims of sexual abuse, the average age at the first time of abuse was 8 years, 4 months. (Dorais, 2002)

Women are responsible for one-third of the sexual abuse of boys, according to the 2 December 1998 CE Journal of the American Medical Association.

80% of men who have experienced sexual abuse have been abused by a female, most often their mother.

Rape is defined on a state-by-state basis. In some states, the rape of men is not defined by law under the same terminology or degree of offense as the rape of women. Some states do not even recognize oral or anal penetration as being rape. (Claudia Rodas, California State University)

The term "War on Women" is becoming popular in the media. Well I don't feel it and I'm a woman. What I do feel is the War on Men and Children.

Tracy Gilman

Lyndonville Vt.


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