Pauline wants to tell her story — about that night in the basement, about the boys and about the abuse she wanted to stop.
But she’s nervous. “Take a deep breath,” she says out loud to herself. She takes a deep and audible breath. And then she tells the story of what happened on the night that turned her life upside down.
“The two boys took advantage of me,” she begins. “I didn’t like it at all.”
Pauline is a woman with an intellectual disability. At a time when more women are speaking up about sexual assault — and naming the men who assault or harass them — Pauline, too, wants her story told.
Her story, NPR found in a yearlong investigation, is a common one for people with intellectual disabilities.
NPR obtained unpublished Justice Department data on sex crimes. The results show that people with intellectual disabilities — women and men — are the victims of sexual assaults at rates more than seven times those for people without disabilities.
It’s one of the highest rates of sexual assault of any group in America, and it’s hardly talked about at all.
Pauline was part of that silent population. But she says she decided to speak publicly about what happened to her because she wants to “help other women.”
NPR’s investigation found that people with intellectual disabilities are at heightened risk during all parts of their day. They are more likely than others to be assaulted by someone they know. The assaults, often repeat assaults, happen in places where they are supposed to be protected and safe, often by a person they have been taught to trust and rely upon.
Pauline is 46, with a quick smile and an easy laugh. (NPR uses rape survivors’ first name, unless they prefer their full name be used.) She has red hair and stylish, coppery-orange glasses.
In February 2016, Pauline was living with her longtime caretaker and that woman’s extended family.
On the night of Feb. 20, she was in the basement of the family’s second home, in Pennsylvania. According to the police criminal complaint, Pauline was raped by two boys who were part of the family.
She told them repeatedly to stop. They warned her not to tell.
But she did.
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