Skip to Content

Sexual Assault of the Mentally Disabled

Muscular Dystrophy Awareness Ribbon Tote Bag

Sexual Assault of the Mentally Disabled

The Journal Sentinal Online of Milwaukee, Wisconsin has presented an article concerning people with mental health disorders in the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex. A watchdog group has reviewed patient files and found that out of the seventeen people in the facility's care they reviewed, ten of them had improper sexual contact with others, while five of them were sexually assaulted at the complex during the last half of 2009. The watchdog group, Disability Rights Wisconsin, rushed their findings to print due to concerns over patient safety at the Milwaukee complex; a report in greater detail is forthcoming.

Disability Rights Wisconsin is the state's designated watchdog group for patients, and has the authority to examine confidential patient files, as well as to interview both patients and staff members of the complex. The group's attorney, Shirin Cabraal, has spent a number of weeks examining patient files and stated that she was shocked by the nonchalant manner with which the administrators and staff member treated the escalating incidents of sexual assaults at the facility, which is located on W. Waterton Plank Road (Make This Facility Feel **Really Uncomfortable**). Says Cabraal, “I couldn't believe how complacent the staff was about reports of sexual assault.”

While the facility apparently has a policy of no physical contact between people in the facility, the policy is plainly frequently violated. A number of staff members were unaware of the policy, according to Disability Rights Wisconsin. Barbara Beckert, Executive Director of Disability Rights Wisconsin stated, “This is an acute care ward – not a place to have recreational sex.” Staff members, to include top administrative members of the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex did not appear to be alarmed at the sheer amount of inappropriate sexual contact, according to Barbara Beckert, who also said, “What we saw is very disturbing, yet is is being treated as though these were not grave concerns. If it's not grave, then that's really disturbing. Where is the outrage?”

The report by Disability Rights Wisconsin presents five major areas the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex is failing in. The Complex is not keeping the people they are there to provide care for:

  • Safe, to include physical examinations and proper monitoring
  • The facility over-uses restraints
  • The facility fails to connect people in their care with services in the community upon discharge
  • The facility fails to present people in their care with viable options, as well as their family members, concerning the ability to report complaints about the care they receive
  • The facility is inadequately monitored by state inspectors

The report produced by Disability Rights Wisconsin is eighteen pages in length, something that speaks for itself.

The facility, in response, threw out the usual statements and excuses. “We are in compliance...,” “We must go even further...” Blah, blah, blah. John Chianelli, the county's top mental health administrator, did no less, declaring a safe hospital to be, “the highest priority,” as if he had been ensuring this in the first place or something. County Executive Scott Walker stated that he shared some of the concerns raised by Disability Rights Wisconsin – Sorry, Scott; your concerns would have been better received had you been paying attention a tad sooner. The Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex is a violation in motion, and not one of you did anything to stop this.

Tamara Grigsby, the Democratic State Representative of Milwaukee, said she wanted a state audit. Says Ms. Grigsby, “We entrusted the county to provide these services, and it is absolutely clear that the county has not done that in a way that has been acceptable.” Ms. Grigsby has called for greater accountability of county officials where issues at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex are concerned. Beckert of Disability Rights Wisconsin has stated, “We intend to hold their feet to the fire,” and is pushing the county to make wholesale changes to the Mental Health Complex with the goal of ensuring patient safety.

How many times have we, as American citizens, witnessed stories such as this one over decades of time in America? The issue of abuse in mental health facilities is not isolated to any one state or facility. There is a great need for equal rights legislation in regards to every person with a disability in America; equal rights legislation that would find these institutions shut down, and people with all forms of disabilities being treated in the same medical facilities that nondisabled persons expect treatment from every single day in this nation. Facilities such as the Milwaukee Mental Health Complex are a menace to society and need to be replaced with competent health care facilities and the provision of equal rights to people with disabilities in America, who so very clearly still do not have them in this nation it is utterly disgusting.