Clinical effects of sexual abuse on people with learning disability: critical literature review.

Background: There are few publications concerning the psychological reactions of people with learning disabilities to sexual abuse. Most significantly, there are no controlled studies and few which demonstrate a systematic approach to documenting the sequelae of trauma.

Aims: To critically review the published research in this field.

Methods: A literature search in peer-reviewed psychiatry, psychology, nursing and social care journals for the years 1974 to 2001 was conducted and 25 studies were reviewed.

Results: Several studies suggest that, following sexual abuse, people with learning disabilities may experience a range of psychopathology similar to that experienced by adults and children in the general population. However, because of methodological limitations, these results are not conclusive.

Conclusion: Whether people with learning disabilities experience reactions to sexual abuse similar to the general population has yet to be explored by systematic research.