OBJECTIVES: To explore characteristics of sexual abuse within residential settings for people with an intellectual disability and to map out measures undertaken and improvement plans made by healthcare organisations after sexual abuse.
DESIGN: Descriptive analysis of reports about sexual violence against persons with an intellectual disability submitted to the Dutch Health and Youth Care Inspectorate by healthcare organisations.
SETTING: Residential settings for people with an intellectual disability in The Netherlands.
SELECTION: 186 incident reports submitted to the Inspectorate between January 2017 and December 2019 were included.
RESULTS: 125 incident reports concerned sexual abuse by fellow clients and 61 reports concerned sexual abuse by professionals. Client perpetrators were predominantly male whereas almost 30% of the abusing professionals were female. The majority of the perpetrating professionals were unlicensed professionals. Clients who committed sexual abuse were mostly relocated to another residential setting. Most healthcare organisations invested in education and training for employees instead of improving the sexual education programme for clients after an incident of sexual abuse. If there was a strong suspicion of sexual abuse by a professional, resignation followed in most cases. In just two cases, the perpetrating professional was reported to a warning registry.
CONCLUSIONS: A small amount of the perpetrating professionals held a licensed profession, which makes it challenging to address this form of sexual abuse through healthcare regulation. It raises the question why warning registries are not engaged more often after alleged sexual abuse. Constantly relocating abusing clients might endanger the (sexual) safety of clients in these new environments. Previous literature suggests that adequate sexual education regarding social skills and sexual behaviour is very effective for the majority of clients who commit sexual abuse. Healthcare organisations could take up a more prominent role in this to ensure safety for their own clients and for clients residing elsewhere.