This module provides an overview of practice consideration when working with men with a learning or intellectual disability who have been sexually abused. It has been prepared with the support of our partners WWILD-Sexual Violence Prevention (SVP) Association Inc. (Service information and link below).
Evidence suggests that men who have an intellectual disability are at a significantly increased risk of sexual abuse. In seeking to improve awareness and services to these men, an outline is provided of how intellectual disability has been and is now configured, understood and responded to. Just like all men, men with disabilities engage with and can struggle with societal gender scripts of how is man is meant to be and behave. These expectations are discussed, along with the tensions this produces for men with intellectual disabilities.
The second section focuses particularly on communicating with people with intellectual disabilities in the counselling context. The communication styles of people with intellectual disability vary, as they do with all people. Some may be very articulate, some very talkative, and others may have very limited or no verbal communication. Information covered includes: recognising intellectual disability, habits of acquiescence or masking; similarities and differences in attention, masking, sequencing, concrete and abstract thinking, and story telling styles. An overview is provided on the roles, responsibilities, skills and practice considerations for those working with people with intellectual disabilities who have been sexually abused.
The WWILD-Sexual Violence Prevention (SVP) Association Inc. is a not-for-profit organisation based in Brisbane, Queensland, that works with both women and men with intellectual disabilities who have experienced or are at risk of experiencing violence, abuse and exploitation. Through its two program areas, the Sexual Violence Prevention Program and the Disability Training Program – Victims of Crime, WWILD provides support for people with intellectual disability who are victims of crime, and to the professionals, carers and family members who support them. WWILD's work includes counselling and therapeutic groups; support to access resources to recover from the effects of violence; community education and training; court and legal support;, resource development, advocacy; information, advice, and referrals. To find out more about WWILD, visit their website at wwild.org.au.
WWILD has also developed a learning hub for those working with people with intellectual disabilities who have experienced sexual violence and trauma, at wwildtraining.org.au
This section details what we know about the prevalence of men with an intellectual disability who have been sexually abused, as well as definitions and self definitions.
Challenges with communication are common for many people with intellectual disability and, while counselling practitioners need a solid theoretical basis to their work, they also need to ensure that their practice is flexible enough to respond effectively to the needs of this broad client group (O'Driscoll, 2009).
Considerations practitioners will need to be aware of when communicating with a client with an intellectual disability.