A woman who's been in a vegetative state for 14 years unexpectedly gave birth — her case exemplifies the larger trend of sexual assault against people with physical and intellectual disabilities.

A woman in a 14-year vegetative state just gave birth sparking investigations into sexual assault

Nursing home staffers, none of whom knew she was pregnant, said the woman started moaning on Dec 29. She gave birth to a healthy baby boy later that day, Reportedly the woman has been living in a Phoenix nursing home due to complications from a near-drowning incident. Many people had access to her room for round-the-clock care.

The Justice Dept reports that people with intellectual disabilities

are 7x more likely to experience sexual violence than those without

Holly Kearl, founder of Stop Street Harassment: 'Too often, when we talk about sexual harassment or sexual assault, we leave out persons with disabilities. And I think this is indicative of a larger problem in our society. That persons with disabilities are often pushed aside, they are literally put in institutions, hidden in attics and closets, and we need to have them more fully integrated into our society and into our conversations.'

Holly Kearl is the founder of Stop Street Harassment

and has seen a symptom of sexual abuse within the disability community firsthand. Her sister Heidi was born with microcephaly and cerebral palsy.

Kearl: 'She couldn’t walk or talk, she was deaf, she couldn’t hear, and her muscles were so tight she had trouble to sign things or hold a pencil in her hand.'

Years after her sister died, Kearl was shocked to discover years after her sister died that a doctor had recommended her family sterilize Heidi.

Kearl: 'The reason for this is because sexual violence is so pervasive for persons with disabilities, intellectual, if it happened, the pediatrician thought, as least she wouldn’t have an unwanted pregnancy. And learning about that years after my sister passed away was so shocking to me and made me think, who would want to harm my sister? It was so shocking.'

Kearl’s org found that 40% of women with a disability have experienced sexual assault. This is compared to the 23% of women without disabilities who face sexual assault

Kearl: 'Sexual violence tends to happen more when groups are ‘othered’ or seen as ‘less than.’’. And too often people with disabilities are kept hidden. So our society needs to do more to include them into the conversation.

Growing up with a sister with disabilities, I learned to be her advocate and be her helper from a young age. And a mission I have is to make sure everyone is heard. I want everyone to feel safe, whether that’s on the street or at home or in the workplace. Everyone deserves safety.'

The Arizona Department of Health is working with local law enforcement on a criminal investigation and has ordered heightened security at the facility where the criminal investigation is taking place.

#SexualAbuse #Abuse #PeopleWithDisabilities #Disabilities

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