If this were any other population, the world would be up in arms," says Nancy Thaler, a deputy secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services
runs the state's developmental disability programs
. "We would be irate and it would be the No. 1 health crisis in this country."
For people in the field, like her, the high rates of assault have been an open secret.
"Folks with intellectual disabilities are the perfect victim," says Thaler, who has been a leader in the field for more than 40 years — in top state, federal and national association jobs. She is also a parent of an adult son with an intellectual disability.
"They are people who often cannot speak or their speech is not well-developed.
They are generally taught from childhood up to be compliant, to obey, to go along with people. Because of the intellectual disability, people tend not to believe them, to think that they are not credible or that what they saying, they are making up or imagining," she explains.
"And so for all these reasons, a perpetrator sees an opportunity, a safe opportunity to victimize people."