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house Bill H.R. 505

Should Grants Addressing Sexual Assault Against Disabled Persons Be Reauthorized?

Argument in favor

Individuals with disabilities experience sexual assault at seven times the rate of those without disabilities. This is an epidemic that’s going unaddressed — there’s an urgent need for federal funding to support organizations providing victim services and other necessary support for individuals with disabilities to both prevent and address sexual assault.

Argument opposed

Addressing sexual assault against individuals with disabilities is largely a question of ensuring that courts, caretakers, and local law enforcement know what to look for and can effectively bring cases to court. To this end, many states are already modifying their laws to address sexual assault against individuals with disabilities. There’s no need for additional federal action.

bill Progress

  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on the Judiciary
    IntroducedJanuary 11th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 505?

This bill — the CARE Act — would reauthorize grant programs for eligible organizations to provide training, consultation, and information on domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault against individuals with disabilities.

Grants given under this bill could be used for a variety of purposes, including:

  • Providing personnel, training, technical assistance, advocacy, intervention, risk reduction designed to prevent domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault against disabled individuals;
  • Conducting outreach activities to ensure that disabled individuals who are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, or sexual assault receive appropriate assistance;
  • Conducting cross-training for victim service organizations, governmental agencies, courts, law enforcement, and nonprofit nongovernmental organizations serving individuals with disabilities on: risk reduction, intervention, prevention and the nature of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault for disabled individuals;
  • Providing technical assistance to modify existing policies, protocols, and procedures to ensure equal access to the services, programs, and activities of victim service providers for disabled individuals;
  • Providing training and technical assistance on shelters’ and victim service providers’ requirements under federal antidiscrimination laws;
  • Modifying facilities, purchasing equipment, and providing personnel to help shelters and victim service organizations accommodate disabled individuals’ needs;
  • Providing advocacy and intervention services for disabled individuals who are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, or sexual assault; and
  • Developing model programs providing advocacy and intervention services within organizations serving disabled individuals who are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

The bill would also require the Attorney General (AG) to submit a report to Congress on best practices to address the disproportionately high incidence of sexual assault against individuals with disabilities.

The bill’s full title is the Certainty, Assistance, and Relief for Everyone (CARE) Act.


Persons with disabilities; caregivers; sexual assault perpetrators; persons with disabilities who are sexually assaulted; victim services organizations; local law enforcement; prosecutors; shelters; courts; governmental agencies; and the AG.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 505

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to protect disabled Americans from sexual assault:

“Protecting vulnerable populations, like disabled Americans, must be a priority for Congress. The CARE Act will ensure vital programs continue to provide resources addressing domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault against individuals with disabilities. Congress should act now to provide safeguards for some of the most vulnerable Americans.”

Rep. Calvert originally introduced this bill in the 115th Congress to address the high incidence of sexual assault against disabled persons:

“I came across an NPR article that found that intellectually disabled people are seven times more likely to be sexually assaulted. It is absolutely shocking and disturbing that these individuals are targeted so often and I wholeheartedly believe we must do more to protect them. That is why I am introducing the CARE Act, which will provide vital assistance to our most vulnerable populations.”

This bill has three cosponsors, including two Republicans and one Democrat, in the current Congress. Last Congress, it had nine cosponsors, including five Democrats and four Republicans.

Of Note:

People with intellectual disabilities experience more violence in general as compared to those without disabilities. In 2008, the National Crime Victim Survey found that people with disabilities experienced nearly twice as many violent crimes as those without disabilities. In 1994, a study found that 25 percent of women and girls with intellectual disabilities who were referred for birth control had a history of sexual violence. In another 1991 study, researchers found that 49 percent of people with intellectual disabilities will experience 10 or more sexually abusive incidents over the course of their lifetimes.

In January 2018, NPR published the results of an investigation in which they found that “people with intellectual disabilities — women and men — are the victims of sexual assaults at rates more than seven times those for people without disabilities.” NPR found that people with intellectual disabilities are at “heightened risk” at “all parts of their day,” particularly from trusted caregivers and similar individuals:

“They are more likely than others to be assaulted by someone they know. The assaults, often repeat assaults, happen in places where they are supposed to be protected and safe, often by a person they have been taught to trust and rely upon… [T]here is an epidemic of sexual abuse against people with intellectual disabilities. These crimes go mostly unrecognized, unprosecuted and unpunished. A frequent result was that the abuser was free to abuse again. The survivor is often re-victimized multiple times.”

Nancy Thaler, a deputy secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services who runs Pennsylvania’s developmental disability programs, says individuals with intellectual disabilities are “the perfect victim”:

“If this were any other population, the world would be up in arms. We would be irate and it would be the No. 1 health crisis in this country. Folks with intellectual disabilities are the perfect victim. They are people who often cannot speak or their speech is not well-developed. They are generally taught from childhood up to be compliant, to obey, to go along with people. Because of the intellectual disability, people tend not to believe them, to think that they are not credible or that what they saying, they are making up or imagining. And so for all these reasons, a perpetrator sees an opportunity, a safe opportunity to victimize people."

In the wake of the NPR report in 2018, a number of states have proactively made changes to their laws to help people with disabilities get justice. In Pennsylvania, legislation passed the state House of Representatives making it easier for people with intellectual disabilities to testify in court. In Massachusetts, a law to create a registry of abusive caretakers has been proposed. In California, legislation to give prosecutors extra money to devote more staff and time to these cases was proposed.


Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: / nito100)



Official Title

To amend the Violence Against Women Act of 2000 to reauthorize the grant program for education, training, and enhanced services to end violence against and abuse of women with disabilities.