High number of special needs people are sexually assaulted

BURLINGAME (KRON)—The alleged sexual assault of a 15-year-old boy with Down Syndrome at a BART station Saturday night still hard imagine.

As KRON4’s Philippe Djegal reports, a Bay Area advocate for people battling developmental disabilities says that population is targeted by predators happens far too often.

“I’m outraged,” said Diana Conti, CEO of Peninsula Association of Retarded Children and Adults.

It happens more often than you think.

“It’s really got to stop,” Conti said.

Special needs children and adults, victims of a sexual assault not an aberration, Conti said.

“Predators look for easy marks,” she said.

Conti is the CEO of PARCA Burlingame, a non-profit that provides support services to people with developmental disabilities and she’s referring to a 15-year-old boy’s encounter Saturday night at the Pittsburg/Bay Point BART station.

Police say a 38-year-old man followed the boy into the bathroom, locked the door behind and sexually assaulted a boy with Down Syndrome.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 15 percent of children ages 3 to 17 have at least one developmental disability and Conti says the percentage of them who are sexually assaulted is much higher.

“Between 40 and 60 percent have had some kind of sexual assault and they do think that is under reported, so it could be even higher,” Conti said. “I mean, that’s kind of an astonishing number in itself.”

But Conti says often people with developmental disabilities are reluctant to report an assault especially boys.

In this recent case at BART, police say the boy’s mother was waiting outside the bathroom and immediately called police when she heard what happened.

The man was arrested.

Conti says the victim will benefit from mental health counseling, but thinking bigger picture.

She says creating task forces made up of law enforcement and mental health experts who could respond to cases like this would raise awareness.

“There has to be a community outcry, that this is it has to become a culture that this is not acceptable behavior anymore, for anybody, whether people are developmentally disabled or not,” Conti said.

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