Professionals providing treatment, supervision, and management to adult persons who have sexually offended recognize the unique needs of those individuals who have concomitant intellectual disabilities and problematic sexual behaviors (IDPSB). Problematic sexual behaviors are defined in this context as sexually offensive conduct that places either the client or others at risk for harm or social prejudice. The prevalence of persons with IDPSB varies between studies, but the results suggest that persons with IDPSB are over-represented in the criminal justice system. As a result, many practitioners providing assessment and treatment services to adults who have committed sexual offenses will at some point encounter personswith IDPSB.<!––Fast Facts––>
Fact 1: Individuals with intellectual disabilities and special needs may sometimes sexually abuse others.
While persons with intellectual disabilities and special needs are among the groups most vulnerable to being sexually abused, they sometimes also can sexually abuse others.
Fact 2: Specific factors contribute to sexual offending by persons with intellectual disabilities and special needs.
Factors that can contribute to individuals with intellectual disabilities and special needs sexually offending against others include an inability to understand nuanced social communications, loneliness, compulsive behaviors, a lack of impulse control, lack of emotional development, and lack of problem-solving skills. More serious factors can include anger management issues and criminal thinking.
Fact 3: Sexually offending behaviors by persons with intellectual disabilities and special needs may not be intentional.
Individuals with intellectual disabilities and special needs may not understand appropriate physical boundaries or know how to interpret other people’s reactions. For this reason, they may display problematic sexual behaviors that are impulsive rather than planned, and are not intended to be abusive. Problematic behaviors may include making sexualized comments, seeking to touch other people inappropriately, and masturbation. It is important, when evaluating the actions of a person with intellectual disabilities or special needs to determine their developmental and emotional state in order to develop the most effective treatment.
Fact 4: Individuals with intellectual disabilities and special needs who display problematic sexual behaviors are more vulnerable to victimization.
Individuals with intellectual disabilities and special needs who display sexual behavior problems, related problems in social development due to aggressive and impulsive behaviors, poor boundaries, and indiscriminate friendliness are more vulnerable to victimization. These behaviors also may create stress for the caregivers of these individuals and can lead to difficult interactions. Working with treatment providers to understand the underlying issues, address the behaviors, and develop appropriate responses is essential to helping these individuals develop appropriate, positive, and prosocial behaviors as far as they are able.