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Sexual relationships in adults with intellectual disabilities: understanding the law

Sexual relationships in adults with intellectual disabilities: understanding the law
Sexual relationships in adults with intellectual disabilities: understanding the law
Introduction Adults with intellectual disabilities (IDs) are known to be very vulnerable to sexual abuse. This may result partly from their lack of sexual knowledge and their powerless position in society. It could also be exacerbated by an ignorance of the law. This study investigates their understanding of the law relating to sexuality.

Method Understanding of the law regarding sexual relationships, consent and abuse was assessed in 60 adults with IDs (mean age 37.6 years) and 60 young people aged 16–18 years (deemed in law capable of consenting to a sexual relationship). Questions were wide ranging, including general laws around sexuality and abuse, as well as the law relating to sexual relationships and ID.

Results There were significant differences between the two groups: adults with IDs had a very limited understanding of the general laws relating to sexuality (e.g. age of consent, incest, abuse), as well as the law relating to sexuality and IDs (e.g. whether they could have sexual relationships, whether they were allowed to marry, what protection they should expect from the law). Young people without disabilities showed a better understanding, both for general laws and for those relating specifically to adults with IDs.

Conclusions These findings show that there is a need to educate people with IDs about the laws relating to sexuality. It is important for people to understand the law and, given the high rates of sexual abuse perpetrated against people with ID, it is essential for them to benefit from the protection the law affords. The new law in England (Sexual Offences Act 2003) post-dated this study. It will be interesting to see whether the new legislation is easier for people with and without disabilities to understand.
adults with intellectual disabilities, consent, law, sexual relationships
0964-2633
197-206
O'Callaghan, A.C.
058f3917-b556-4eef-a393-4c025a3c4ccb
Murphy, G.H.
0e512a2a-e54a-432f-95bf-ec43159cf5ad
O'Callaghan, A.C.
058f3917-b556-4eef-a393-4c025a3c4ccb
Murphy, G.H.
0e512a2a-e54a-432f-95bf-ec43159cf5ad

O'Callaghan, A.C. and Murphy, G.H. (2007) Sexual relationships in adults with intellectual disabilities: understanding the law. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 51 (3), 197-206. (doi:10.1111/j.1365-2788.2006.00857.x). (PMID:17300415)

Record type: Article

Abstract

Introduction Adults with intellectual disabilities (IDs) are known to be very vulnerable to sexual abuse. This may result partly from their lack of sexual knowledge and their powerless position in society. It could also be exacerbated by an ignorance of the law. This study investigates their understanding of the law relating to sexuality.

Method Understanding of the law regarding sexual relationships, consent and abuse was assessed in 60 adults with IDs (mean age 37.6 years) and 60 young people aged 16–18 years (deemed in law capable of consenting to a sexual relationship). Questions were wide ranging, including general laws around sexuality and abuse, as well as the law relating to sexual relationships and ID.

Results There were significant differences between the two groups: adults with IDs had a very limited understanding of the general laws relating to sexuality (e.g. age of consent, incest, abuse), as well as the law relating to sexuality and IDs (e.g. whether they could have sexual relationships, whether they were allowed to marry, what protection they should expect from the law). Young people without disabilities showed a better understanding, both for general laws and for those relating specifically to adults with IDs.

Conclusions These findings show that there is a need to educate people with IDs about the laws relating to sexuality. It is important for people to understand the law and, given the high rates of sexual abuse perpetrated against people with ID, it is essential for them to benefit from the protection the law affords. The new law in England (Sexual Offences Act 2003) post-dated this study. It will be interesting to see whether the new legislation is easier for people with and without disabilities to understand.

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e-pub ahead of print date: 9 January 2007
Published date: March 2007
Keywords: adults with intellectual disabilities, consent, law, sexual relationships

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 59042
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/59042
ISSN: 0964-2633
PURE UUID: 3c520778-a8e4-4ebf-9949-8c2606918704

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Date deposited: 21 Aug 2008
Last modified: 08 Jan 2022 13:05

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Author: G.H. Murphy

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