PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - A newly-elected state lawmaker says she’s saddened and sickened by allegations of sexual assault at a long-term care facility, but she’s not surprised.
State House member-elect, Jennifer Longdon, survived gun violence 14 years ago that left her partially paralyzed. She says details about a client raped at Hacienda HealthCare are disturbing, but there are potentially hundreds or even thousands more similar cases across Arizona.
“As horrific as it is, we’ve heard this story, and it is truly the tip of the iceberg,” says Longdon.
Longdon, an advocate for disability rights, says there’s a higher-than-average risk of sexual assault for women with disabilities.
[ORIGINAL EXCLUSIVE STORY: Woman in vegetative state gives birth at Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix]
“That [statistic] goes up to four out of five women with disabilities are sexually assaulted in their lifetime,” says Longdon.
That’s why, Longdon says, Arizona needs comprehensive rape crisis services.
“There’s a patchwork of services available for individuals that you have to figure out how to navigate the system,” says Longdon.
She also says sex abuse victims with disabilities are often dismissed.
“People with disabilities are incorrectly perceived as not being reliable reporters,” says Longdon.
Longdon says all stakeholders must be included to find ways to prevent another sexual abuse case like the one at Hacienda. She says she’s been in touch with lawmakers, advocates and the disability community to figure out what can be done to protect vulnerable populations.
“In the disability community, there’s a mantra that says, ‘Nothing about us without us,’” says Longdon. "I’m asking that we not make decisions about the disability community that doesn’t involve the disability community."
[CONTINUING COVERAGE: Arizona's Family investigation in Hacienda HealthCare]