In spite of all the publicity in recent years about child abuse, very little mention has been made of another group of people who are also very vulnerable to abuse, namely adults with a mental handicap. Although chronologically adults, and therefore not susceptible to the laws designed to protect children, they may be functioning intellectually and emotionally at a much lower level. Because they are often dependent on other people for many aspects of their care, this makes them vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse and neglect. Difficulties with speech and communication may render them unable to inform anyone of their plight or ask for help, therefore many problems remain hidden. Personal involvement in one such case made me aware of this problem and the current lack of legal protection for this group of people. I therefore undertook a national survey in order to gain more information on the prevalence of abuse, factors associated with it, and possible legal solutions.
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