That adults with mental handicap∗ are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation is not new, although relatively unacknowledged or investigated. Indeed successive acts under the mental health legislation have sought to protect them, particularly those with severe mental handicap. With the growing awareness and identification of sexual abuse of children, and the growing knowledge of the long-term psychological effects (Jehu, 1989), which may be even more severe for people who have disabilities (Kennedy, 1990; Sinason, 1989), it has been acknowledged that not only are the mentally handicapped particularly vulnerable to abuse (Benedict et al, 1990), but the problem may well be seriously underestimated by those working in management positions (Brown & Craft, 1989). While it is recognised that the mentally handicapped have rights and need to express their sexuality, they also have the right not to be exploited or abused. We therefore need to know more about the numbers, indicators and circumstances where this group may be sexually abused and to develop policies, systems and training to protect them (Brown & Craft, 1989). This pilot study was a step in this process.
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