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Rape, Forced Oral Sex, Genital Lacerations—Reports at Sonoma Developmental Center Went Uninvestigated

California Watch reports 36 reported cases at state-run centers for people with disabilities went uninvestigated in the past four years. At least one client became pregnant.

At least 36 reports of rape, forced oral sex and molestation of patients at Sonoma Developmental Center and other state run operations for the intellectually disabled have gone uninvestigated in the past four years, without any collection of evidence, according to an investigative report from California Watch .

The Sonoma facility in Eldridge is among several operations in five California counties that provide board and care services to people with cerebral palsy and other intellectual disabilities, many of whom have an IQ in the single digits and can't speak, according to California Watch. Most of the cases are reported to have occurred at the Sonoma location. In one case, a woman who is named as "Jennifer," was reported to have given birth. This California Watch video offers a narrated account by a woman reported to be Jennifer's mother. 

The report is the latest in a series of stories of alleged abuse suffered by patients at the hands of caretakers who are supposed to be overseen by the state's Office of Protective Services—the people hired to enforce law and protect clients. Other stories involved stun-gun assaults on multiple patients and a suspected homicide. 

The report further states, "Despite its sloppy record, the force managed to collect more overtime pay than other police agencies its size."

Sonoma Developmental Center houses about 500 men and women who are not able to live with their families due to their conditions.

California Watch was able to obtain confidential records about these facilities through sources. Most of the cases are reported to have occurred at the Sonoma center. In one case, the report states, male caregivers were assigned to a patient even after a complaint of abuse by staff while the patient was bathing.

According to interviews with experts in the story, reports of sexual abuse by developmentally disabled are often ignored because they cannot communicate well.

“This leaves the person with a disability continually vulnerable to victimization, because perpetrators come to learn they may victimize them without fear of consequences,” according to one expert.

Earlier this year, the Department of Developmental Services issued a statement  saying it was working on improvements at Sonoma. Executive Director Terri Delgadillo has declined interviews with California Watch and with Patch.

The full article by California Watch may be found by clicking here.

TELL US: Are you a parent of someone housed at the Sonoma Center? We'd like to hear from you. Email julie.pendray@patch.com  Readers, what do you think should be done to remedy these reported problems? Add your comment below.

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Paula Neese November 30, 2012 at 03:19 AM
I would fire the director.
Reginald "Rex" Henderson December 01, 2012 at 04:41 AM
Another reason not to visit Glen Ellen
Dee Baucher December 01, 2012 at 05:57 PM
The state needs to get rid of the OPS at the Development Centers, and contract with local law enforcement authorities instead. The cost of the OPS (with all their bogus overtime and other union-associated charges) is too high, and the quality of their services is too low. The state needs to stop pretending that an insulated group of untrained and incompetent unionized people, who happen to wear uniforms, are equivalent with legitimate protective services for these very vulnerable residents.
Stacy December 13, 2012 at 10:04 PM
Most of the clients do NOT need to be in a institution. As a owner of a Supported Living Agency I have heard many times that families believe their loved ones are safe in that environment, which is so far from the truth. I was a former student and witnessed abuse at SDC, they worked harder to cover it up than to deal with the problem.
Gram January 20, 2013 at 02:40 PM
Cannot understand how such lowlife can be hired to work in these places..no licenses?...no RN'S? no LVN'S?? no decent orderlies who have a thorough background check? No one with the authority to step up to the plate...how very, very sad.

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