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Can the physically disabled be protected from sexual abuse?

Silence both sheltered and shamed Erin Esposito when she endured sexual abuse that lasted for much of her childhood.

From the age of three until she was a teenager, said Esposito, who was born deaf, her father and two brothers abused her. Confused and scared, she said nothing until her adult life unraveled in a haze of drugs and alcohol.

Part of her recovery has been to recount her experiences.

“I can’t change my past, but I decided and committed myself to make this world a better place so other deaf children don’t go through what I did,” said Esposito, who is now 38 and serves as the Executive Director of Advocacy Services for Abused Deaf Victims, a national non-profit based in Rochester, NY.

One obstacle, according to Esposito who communicated with The Crime Report through a video relay service that uses a translator to communicate in real time, was that “people tend to think deaf and disabled people are stupid and can’t communicate.”

“That,” she added, “makes us a very vulnerable population.”

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