Jacquelyne Navarro
Professor Ramos
English 1A 3:30
April 17, 2018
The Unspoken Ones
In the The Book of the Unknown Americans, Maribel Rivera is young beautiful fifteen-year-old girl who has a metal disability in a result of an injury. She has a difficult time with daily activities and developed a learning disability. Maribel seems disoriented, confused and can’t hold a conversation and sometimes can’t even respond to questions. Maribel’s cognitive impairments are due to a devastating accident she had in Mexico. Maribel fell from a two-story building, off a ladder hitting her head first and snapping her neck. Before the accident she was a normal sweet lovely fourteen-year-old teenager, a miracle child to her parents. The Rivera’s lives were perfect, and very normal but nothing was the same after the accident. The Rivera family had to move to The United States to get Maribel the proper help and education she needed. The Rivera’s made the move and eventually Maribel started attending a special needs school for people with disabilities. Every day a small yellow bus would pick up Maribel and drop her off in front of her house. And every day Alma would wait outside for the bus to come to escort Maribel onto the bus and wait for her to come home from school. Alma was always very protective of Maribel after the accident, she didn’t want Maribel to forget where she was at and end up getting lost, Alma never let Maribel out of her sight for more than a few minutes. Unfortunately, a few minutes was enough for something bad too happen to Maribel.
One day Alma let her guard down and decided to wait inside for Maribel to get home from school, while she washed dishes in the kitchen. From the kitchen window you can see the front of the house, so Alma kept a lookout for Maribel to walk by or see the bus pass by. Thirty minutes passed from the time when Maribel was supposed to arrive and there was still no sight of Maribel. Alma began to worry that something bad might have happened to Maribel. She rushed outside and started to look around and shouting for Maribel. Just as she turned the corner she seen Maribel and Garrett, a kid from the store she seen staring down her daughter. Garrett was a bully, a troubled kid. Alma yelled at Garrett, “leave her alone!” (Alma.122) Maribel’s shirt was above her bra and her face was covered with her shirt and she was pinned against the wall. Alma yelled again this time with a cranky voice as if she was about to cry “le-leave her alone!”. Garrett moved, and Alma reached for Maribel to come to her, but Maribel was frozen, she didn’t move. Alma grabbed Maribel’s wrist and they hurried inside. Alma and Maribel didn’t talk much about what happened, in fact they didn’t talk about what happened at all. No one really knows what happened to Maribel except for her and her abuser Garret and Alma her mother, who is too scared to find out the facts. Maribel was left to deal with this traumatic event on her own, with no support, even from her own mother.
Things would have been different if Maribel did not have intellectual disability. In Fact, it probably may have never had happened to her if she was normal. There are studies that show that people with intellectual disabilities are sexually assaulted seven times higher than those who don’t have a disability. Just like Maribel’s case most of “these crimes go mostly unrecognized, unprosecuted and unpunished. A frequent result was that the abuser was free to abuse again. The survivor is often re-victimized multiple times.” (NPR). Making people with disabilities the prefect victim. Most crimes go unnoticed and even some police and prosecutors are often reluctant to take these cases because they are difficult to win in court. It’s hard for the victim to confess because they don’t know how to communicate, and sometimes there isn’t enough proof for the cases, “49% of people with developmental disabilities who are victims of sexual violence will experience 10 or more abusive incidents” (Sobsey). Only 3% of sexual abuse cases involving people with developmental disabilities are ever reported (Valenti-Hein & Schwartz). Even though Garrett never got reported, Maribel was lucky that her mother was able to prevent anything else from happening. But what would have happened if Alma didn’t catch Garrett? Most likely Garrett would have gone further, and he would have keep assaulting Maribel without being detected. People with intellectual disabilities might not know that they are being abused. In the case of Maribel, she doesn’t know how to communicate, those with limited speaking abilities have had no way to talk about abuse or report abuse.

Unfortunately, Maribel would probably never receive the proper treatment/ counseling among million people with intellectual disabilities that have encounter sexual assaults. It is important to educate everyone specially people with intellectual disabilities about sex, and sexual assault. There are myths that juts because they don’t understand about sex they won’t suffer from a sexual assaulted. But people with intellectual disabilities have the same concerns and feelings as other people, though they might it difficult to express it. Another myth are that people with disabilities don’t know the differences between lies and truths. Some people do not receive appropriate sex education and consequently do not understand what sexual behavior is ok and what is not. Therefore it is very important to educate to inform and talk about sex sexual conduct that might not be ok or consentual.
Works Cited
HenriÌquez, Cristina. The Book of Unknown Americans. Vintage Books, a Division of Random House LLC, 2015.
Shaprio, Joseph. “The Sexual Assault Epidemic No One Talks About.” NPR, 8 Jan. 2018, http://www.npr.org/2018/01/08/570224090/the-sexual-assault-epidemic-no-one-talks-about.
Sobsey, D. 1994. “Violence and Abuse in the Lives of People with Disabilities: The End of Silent Acceptance?
Valenti-Hein & Schwartz, 1995. The Sexual Abuse Interview for Those with Developmental Disabilities.
“Table 3-9: Victims With a Reported Disability, 2012 (PDF – 4,372 KB).” Child Welfare Information Gateway, http://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/systemwide/statistics/can/stat-disabilities/