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Adapted Aquatics Teacher Suspected of Sexual Assault

June 21, 2009

In the Netherlands Gerrit van der Burg, a swim-lesson instructor and owner of a swimming school that focuses on teaching students with mental disabilities, has been arrested on suspicion of sexual abuse after police found thousands of photographs of girls at his home. Unfortunately, it isn’t unusual for predators to choose careers that place them in positions of trust working with vulnerable communities.

Young girls with intellectual disabilities are particularly vulnerable for a few reasons. Some may not be able to tell anyone what has happened to them. This is the reason why

“[r]egrettably, many parents of his current and former pupils will never know if anything ever happened to their children,” Den Bosch police chief Wilbert Paullissen said, adding Larue had probably not recorded all children he allegedly assaulted. (Australian Associated Press)

When they do tell, they may not be believed. People may assume that their disabilities led them to misunderstand or imagine the situation. EarthTimes reports that

[r]umours about suspected sexual abuse by the swimming teacher first surfaced five years ago, but a police investigation did not lead anywhere.

One wonders if the “rumours” would have been taken more seriously had the children bringing them up not been disabled.

Besides these factors that make it easier for predators to get away with abusing disabled children, ableism also gives excuses to people who might otherwise understand that abusing children is wrong. These individuals may believe that disabled children cannot possibly understand the abuse and so cannot be harmed. They may also see disabilities as making a person less human, or at least less valuable, and thus an appropriate vessel for their disgusting desires.


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