Home > Disability Rights > Work in Progress: Bullying and Abuse in Simple Language

Work in Progress: Bullying and Abuse in Simple Language

I’m working on a way to describe abuse to children and people with intellectual disabilities so that they can recognize it and know what to do when it occurs. This is a rough draft, aimed primarily at kids.


What Are Bullying and Abuse?

Sometimes people hurt you by accident. But sometimes a person hurts you on purpose, and hurts you over and over again. When another child does this to you, it is called bullying. When a grown-up or someone else taking care of you does it, it is called abuse.

If someone bullies or abuses you, remember:

– It is never your fault.

– You do not deserve it. No one ever deserves to be bullied or abused.

– Try to tell the grown-ups that you trust about what happened.


Physical Abuse:

Physical abuse is when someone hurts any part of your body.


Emotional Abuse:

Emotional abuse is when someone says terrible things to scare you or make you feel bad. They might tell you that you are a bad person, or that very bad things should happen to you. Don’t believe them. They are wrong.


Sexual Abuse:

Everyone’s body has private parts. Private parts are the places where pee and poop comes out. You usually wear a diaper or underwear over your private parts.

No one should touch your private parts unless they are changing your diaper, wiping you after you go potty, or washing you.

No one should ever put anything into your private parts.

No one should ever make you touch their private parts.

When two people are grown-ups and in love, then it is ok for them to touch each other’s private parts. But no matter how old you are, no one should ever touch your private parts if you don’t want them to.


What Will Happen When You Tell About Abuse?

When people abuse you, they know they are doing something bad. They might tell you to keep the abuse a secret. They might tell you that bad things will happen if you tell anyone.

You should tell the grown-ups you trust. You can tell them by talking, writing, or showing them pictures. If they do not believe you, tell someone else.

The grown-ups who want to help you will call some people whose job is to stop abuse. You should tell these people everything that happened to you.

  1. May 16, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Private parts also sometimes need to be touched by health care providers. . .

    Are you familiar with Dave Hingsburger? (http://davehingsburger.blogspot.com/) He has been doing self-advocacy and abuse prevention training for individuals with intellectual disabilities for. . .decades? Mostly although not entirely in Canada. His material may be a potential resource/inspiration


    • May 16, 2013 at 11:39 pm

      I thought a lot about the bit about healthcare providers, but I’m having trouble finding a way to work it in that doesn’t leave a lot of room open for people pretending to be professionals (from fellow children “playing doctor” to adults who say “trust me, I’m supposed to be doing this.”).

      I’ve heard a bit about Dave but haven’t read his materials yet. There’s a good local group here who does training, too, but I think they work primarily with adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities.


      • May 17, 2013 at 2:11 pm

        Here’s how I approach the issue with kids and their families, which is not a strategy without issues but it’s the best I’ve been able to come up with thus far:

        Usually right before doing a genital exam, I ask the kid “who’s allowed to touch/see your private parts” or I ask the caregiver if that is something that has been discussed. Either way I reinforce that it’s OK for the doctor to check if mom/dad/name other known caregiver is there and they and you say it’s OK. I then point out to the caregiver that I am phrasing it that way specifically so no one ever tells the kid “it’s OK, I’m a doctor.”

        The main issue with this strategy is that there is of course no guarantee that the parent/caregiver doesn’t touch the child inappropriately. I haven’t figured out a way to sneak that into the medical encounter.


      • May 31, 2013 at 12:27 am

        Sounds like a very good strategy overall. I know health care providers even have to put things into private parts sometimes, but I didn’t want to phrase that as “no one should do this without your permission” because of the potential victim-blaming aspect in the case that someone is bullying, persuaded, or tricked into agreeing to sexual abuse.


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