This is a hard topic. But given the news cycle and numerous people sharing their own experiences via social media, as well as my own personal experience, I feel compelled to bring it up.

Children with disabilities are three times more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault than children without disabilities. Victims of assault are more likely to commit crimes. Every nine minutes an adult with a disability is sexually assaulted or raped. Rape and sexual assault — no matter if the victim is a person with or without a disability — is #NotOK.

I know this personally. When I was 12-years-old, due to my dyslexia, I could not really read or write. I had stopped growing, so I was already 5’10 and looked a lot older than my actual age. But I was illiterate. People called me “stupid,” “idiot,” “lazy,” “disappointing” and worse. Beginning in elementary school, I was bullied physically and verbally at school. When I was 12-years-old, I trusted someone at school who made me feel “accepted” and special. I wound up getting raped.

I blamed myself and did not report it at the time. For decades I did not discuss it. Like many other people, I was touched or grabbed in public, once on a bus and another time on a subway. For many years, I worked to help crisis centers, but did not go public with my own story. But it is far too common to stay silent. And all this press coverage is triggering a lot of feelings in a lot of people who this happened to as well. Rape and sexual assault is a lot more common than most people think. It happens to children, women and men.

If you or someone you care about needs to talk about their experience with someone, and you live in the United States, contact www.RAINN.org or call them at 1-800-565-HOPE. That’s 1-800-565-4673. Their website is screen reader accessible and they are completely set up to accommodate and serve people who are hearing impaired. If you live in Israel contact the rape crisis centers there.

If you or a loved one is thinking of committing suicide and they live in the US, call a free national suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255. If you live in Israel you can contact suicide.com.

If you live in the United States and are looking for political candidates who care about these issues, questions 10 and 11 of our nonpartisan candidate questionnaires specifically address these issues. See where candidates for president, governor and senate stand on these issues here: #PwDsVote 2016 Disability Questionnaire Responses.

We addressed these issues in our landmark report, Disability & Criminal Justice Reform: Keys to Success. It is vital that our leaders around the country address these issues immediately.

You are not alone.

P.S. Read the links below to see what the candidates are saying on these issues. RespectAbility and TheRespectAbilityReport are nonpartisan and do not endorse candidates. The questionnaire is purely for educational purposes.

State Gubernatorial Candidate View Full Answers
Delaware Colin Bonini (R) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteBonini
Missouri Chris Koster (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteKoster
Montana Greg Gianforte (R) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteGianforte
New Hampshire
(lost primary)
Derek Dextraze (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteDextraze
Oregon Bud Pierce (R) http://bit.ly/PwDsVotePierce
Utah Mike Weinholtz (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteWeinholtz
Vermont Sue Minter (D) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteMinter
Vermont Phil Scott (R) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteScott
Washington Bill Bryant (R) http://bit.ly/PwDsVoteBryant