Sexuality is a very important aspect of the physical and mental health of any person. There is not a specific sexuality for people with intellectual dissabilities (ID), since sexual and affective capacities are not substantially different, as it is the social look often taken.
Today, a vast number of fathers and mothers are not asking how to avoid the sexuality of their sons or daughters with ID anymore, but what can they do to help them express their sexuality according to their capacities (Tandem Team, 2016). And the same thing is happening with professionals who treat these persons.
In our country, the lack of both formation and information with regard to this issue is flagrant, and has a direct impact on the emotional and mental stability of these people. It has been demonstrated that a large number of mood and/or behavior disorders (depression, anxiety…) are directly related to an inhibition of a sexuality which seemed healthy but that prejudices, social discrimination and lack of opportunities have skewed.
Apart from that, people with ID have been historically excluded from the control of their lives. The fact that they need some type of help to have an independent life does not imply at all that their desires are ignored or that they must be told how to confront their life processes. In this way, we only increase their vulnerability and overlook their potentialities.
These people are not asexual or sexually incompetent at best. Despite having a biological development identical to young people without any ID, young persons with ID do have a delayed intellectual, emotional and social development. It can be possible then that their bodies are more developed than the rest of their abilities.
Training of future professionals doesn’t take into account the sexual education of kids and youngsters with ID. They basically need the same information given to their colleagues, but education strategies differ. Every human being has the right to correct information and to be respected as a person with his/her own opinions and demands. The invisibility to which people with ID have been submitted has encouraged their vulnerability to all types of abuses.
The number of cases of sexual abuse is just overwhelming (and much higher than people without ID) and come in part from the lack of sexual and emotional education.
According to a study conducted in 2016 for DINCAT, the Vicki Bernadet foundation and GREVIA, the prevalence of victimising situations is as follows:
- 97% of people with ID form a collective in risk of victimising. 9 out of 10 people with ID have suffered some type of victimising throughout their lives.
- 50% of women with ID have suffered some type of sexual abuse. This also happens to 25% of men.
- Prevalence of sexual victimising with physical contact is around 66% (Kisses and physical contact: 34,6%. Sexual arousal from the aggressor: 15,3%. Oral, vaginal or anal penetration: 16,2%).
- 24,5% of women have suffered forced sexual relations with penetration, as well as 7% of men.
- Sexual victimising, especially in young and adult women, mainly happens in the street or public places, also at home.
Faced with this reality, a number of sessions about sexuality and affectivity have been organised, with three main goals:
Giving voice to thousands of people with ID in Girona and sorroundings who are at risk of social exclusion.
Help health professionals who must assist people with ID and their families to express their affectivity.
Transform discrimination and stigma and treat people with ID as adults, not as “kids”,
The interest from people who assist persons with ID in the province is justified by the attendance to these sessions and by the need of looking after cases outsie the province.
A total of 130 people – between professionals, speakers and families – met with the aim of updating their training and discussing about the difficulties to provide a correct sexual and affective education to people with ID and minimise their vulnerability. The final goal was to draft a manifesto to claim for the right to information, education and prevention of people with ID and also to ensure a healthy and full sexual life for them.
The Manifesto on the right to have a normal sexual life for people with ID was born from the “Persons with discapcities: Sex and affectivity” sessions, held in October 2017 in Girona. These event was organized to claim for more resources and services for professionals of this field in this province. The difficul access to suitable resources makes it much harder to solve the needs of this patients.
In this way, the manifesto stresses the next steps that must be taken to build a solid network that ensures the rights f people with ID.