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Ohio State Students With Disabilities Report Higher Rates Of Sexual Assault

The Ohio State University

An Ohio State University survey shows that sexual assault of female students is more prevalent for students with disabilities than those without. The sexual misconduct survey taken last year mirrors some of the results of a recent national survey on college campuses.

According to the Ohio State survey, of people that responded, 31 percent of female students with disabilities said they had experienced nonconsensual sexual intercourse or sexual touching involving physical force or incapacitation.

That compares to 18.6 percent of female students without disabilities.

A recent survey by the National Council on Disability found similar results.

“Culturally there have been a lot of social barriers for women with various disabilities, whether they’re physical or psychological, in seeking out a wider cultural environment, a wider friendship group, that also tends to put individuals at risk,” says L. Scott Lissner, Ohio State's Americans with Disabilities Coordinator.

Ohio State's survey gathered responses from 13,456 students, or 21.2 percent of the entire student body.

Women with disabilities, Lissner says “are more dependent on attendants, individual assistants which puts them in situations that may entail risk.”

University officials today may be more aware of the problems facing women with disabilities because surveys now include them, compared to five years ago.

More often than not, the perpetrator knows the victim.

“It is most likely someone you know and not a stranger,” Lissner says. "It is most likely a friend or an acquaintance or a colleague of some sort that you have a baseline social relationship with.”

The Ohio State survey also shows that men with disabilities also reported sexual abuse at a rate almost twice as high as men without: 7.9 percent versus 4.3 percent.

Ohio State holds many campus activities to address how to respond to relationship issues and unwanted behavior, including freshman orientation that discusses sexual assault and initiatives within the Greek system.

“I think that the effort to make sure our training and outreach is accessible will probably show up as starting to impact those numbers,” Lissner percent.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.