Original Research

Knowledge, perceptions and experiences of risk to sexual violence among adults with intellectual disabilities in Cape Town, South Africa

Callista K. Kahonde, Rebecca Johns
African Journal of Disability | Vol 11 | a837 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v11i0.837 | © 2022 Callista K. Kahonde, Rebecca Johns | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 December 2020 | Published: 18 March 2022

About the author(s)

Callista K. Kahonde, Department of Global Health, Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Rebecca Johns, Consultant for Western Cape Forum for Intellectual Disability, Cape Town, South Africa


Background: People with intellectual disabilities are at high risk to sexual violence, yet minimal research has been conducted in South Africa to understand this phenomenon, especially seeking perspectives of people with intellectual disabilities themselves.

Objectives: This study aimed to explore and describe the knowledge and awareness of risk to sexual violence among adults with intellectual disabilities and to understand their perceptions and experiences of risk.

Method: An exploratory qualitative approach was appropriate as there is lack of literature on this subject. Focus group discussions were used as the method of data collection. The method of conducting focus group discussions and data collection instruments were adapted to suit the communication and cognitive abilities of the adults. Twenty-seven adults participated in the study and they were divided into six groups of four to five participants in each group.

Results: The adults’ responses revealed that they had some knowledge of risks to sexual violence, but they also had knowledge gaps and some erroneous knowledge and perceptions that could put them at high risk. The experiences they shared showed that the risk of sexual violence is high among women with intellectual disabilities.

Conclusion: Further research is needed to inform a community approach which includes people with intellectual disabilities, their families, services providers and community members as an intervention to empower and protect people with intellectual disabilities from sexual violence. To achieve this, we recommend an ecological framework as a guiding tool in both the research processes and the implementation of the outcomes.


intellectual disabilities; sexual violence; abuse; risk; knowledge; perceptions; experiences


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Crossref Citations

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