It’s a common misperception in the media and society that people with mental disabilities are prone to commit crimes. A 2016 analysis by Johns Hopkins University found that more than a third of all news stories related to mental disabilities were linked to violence despite the fact that few violent acts can be attributed to mental disability.
A new study published in July in JAMA Psychiatry found that, in fact, people with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of crime rather than the perpetrators. The study estimates that one-quarter of all mentally ill individuals are the victim of a crime each year. That’s higher than the rate of violent victimization in general. The study showed that the greatest increase in danger was from violent crime. Men diagnosed with a mental illness had a 76% increase in likelihood that they would be the victim of a violent crime while women’s risk went up nearly three-fold.
These statistics, in contrast with data showing that those with mental illness make up a small number of violent offenders, demonstrate that there are greater risks that a mentally ill individual will be a crime victim than a criminal. Researchers hope that the study will improve understanding of the risk of victimization of the mentally ill and helped change public perception.
Intellectual and Developmental Disability
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) also face a high likelihood of being crime victims. While there is no way to determine exactly how many individuals with I/DD are the victims of crime since many crimes go unreported, researchers estimate that those with I/DD are 4 to 10 times more likely to be crime victims. Individuals with I/DD are seven times more likely to be the victims of sexual assault than the general population. They are more likely to be assaulted by someone they know and are often the victims of repeat assaults. Many of these crimes go unreported and unprosecuted because I/DD victims are frequently not understood or believed. This is in contrast to the lower number of those with I/DD committing crimes.
If you or a loved one with a mental illness or intellectual or developmental disability has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental illnesses and intellectual and developmental disabilities. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.