Sophia “Rosie” Contino
University of Denver - 2022
Provides one-on-one sexual health education for young people with developmental and physical disabilities.
Project: Publishing research to make sexual health curriculums more accessible to students with intellectual disabilities. Hoping to use this research to develop a tool/resource for caregivers and parents to use when engaging in conversations about sexual health with their student. All in all, my goal is to help eliminate the stigma attached to “sexuality and intellectual disability”.
Inspiration: I was inspired to pursue this project initially through my work with the Sexual Assault Victims Advocate (SAVA). In my time at SAVA, I was made aware of a disturbing statistic: Children with disabilities are four times more likely to experience sexual abuse than children without (Sullivan & Knutson, 2000). After more research, I discovered that this issue is not only disturbingly widespread but also devastatingly underreported and virtually unknown to the general public.
Once I became aware of this issue, I could not stop thinking about it. Since my own brother was born with Sotos Syndrome, I have an understanding of just how vulnerable people living with developmental disabilities can be. I continued to learn about this problem and came to the conclusion that people with disabilities are subject to abuse primarily because the majority of them have no sexual health education; if they were to experience sexual abuse, they couldn‚Äôt report it because they themselves are not sure what happened.
Future Plans for Project: I want to empower people living with both developmental and physical disabilities by providing them with an individualized sexual health education so that they are less vulnerable to sexual abuse.