If children and adolescents are already naturally victims of molesters, the risk is three times higher for those with some type of disability, as revealed by a Unicef report. It is not very difficult to discover the reasons for this preference. The fragility caused by factors such as immaturity, insecurity and dependence is aggravated by the vulnerability imposed by physical or mental limits.
The mother of a young woman with Down syndrome and a master’s degree in disability studies at the University of New York City, journalist Patricia Almeida decided to create the “I Protect myself” project, a booklet that teaches children with or without disabilities to recognize suspicious situations and distrust the abuse disguised as affection and affection.
With simple and direct language, the booklet lists suspicious attitudes and gives tips on how to react and who to ask for help. For the author, working on the self-esteem of children with disabilities is an important protective measure to encourage the reporting of possible abuses.
“They are very discredited. One reason is that there is an idea that no one would be interested in relating to a person with a disability ”, says Patrícia.
This was the case with VL, 45, who has a congenital deficiency in her feet that made her depend on crutches throughout her childhood and undergo seven surgeries to try to correct the problem.
VL was nine years old when the pastor of the evangelical church that his mother attended, trusted by the family, asked for consent for her to help him after services.
The religious man bought snacks and sweets for the girl while she was at church. “My family was very poor, nobody had money for anything, we were unable to eat these things,” he says.
Attentive to her physical problem, the pastor always ordered her to sit down. A couple of months later, he started asking her to sit on his lap. Thus began the abuses, which lasted about a year, until studies stopped her from helping in the church. There was no penetration, the pastor manipulated his and hers sexual organs.
As a teenager, when he started to understand what abuse was, VL decided to tell his three-year-old sister, who did not believe it. “She said that I got it wrong, the pastor was a good man, married, he wouldn’t abuse a girl like me [com deficiência e então considerada feia]. ” After that, he didn’t tell anyone else.
In the case of children with intellectual disabilities, there is even greater discredit about what they report. “They may have compromised skills, some cognitive deficit, but they have the ability to tell their story, inform what is going on,” says Luciana Stocco, social worker and supervisor at the Social Legal Service of the Jô Clemente Institute (formerly Apae, the Parents’ Association) and Friends of the Exceptional of São Paulo).
Based on her experience at the institute, Luciana says that the socioeconomic issue has great relevance in cases of sexual exploitation: “Dependence often causes the family to camouflage the situation because it needs the aggressor’s money”.
The financial issue is also related to the stress of the primary caregiver, who, in most cases, is the mother. “Caregiver burnout is an important factor in the occurrence of violence. There is a need for intersectoral action to define more effective and more protective public policies ”, he says.
VL still lives with his mother in the same city in the interior of São Paulo where he was born. He did not marry, nor did he have children. She has never been able to date and says that even today she is terrified of getting close to her. The pastor died many years ago, but she says the memories are still suffocating. “I know I need help, I have already made appointments with the psychologist several times, but I always cancel. I’m very ashamed to tell you what happened to me. ”
Patricia Almeida’s booklet is available for free at eumeprotejo.com and can be downloaded for use on your computer or cell phone. For those who prefer to print, there is the option of the pocket version, more economical. The site also offers the work in video book format, audio description, Libras and video book in Libras, as well as versions in Spanish and English.