Sexuality and Disability

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 515–532 | Cite as

“Remember Our Voices are Our Tools:” Sexual Self-advocacy as Defined by People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

  • Carli FriedmanEmail author
  • Catherine K. Arnold
  • Aleksa L. Owen
  • Linda Sandman
Original Paper


This exploratory study examines how people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) define and experience sexuality in the context of their identities as self-advocates. Using nominal group technique this study found self-advocates described sexual self-advocacy as relating to knowing and respecting themselves, respect for others, choices, speaking up, having their rights respected, getting information, healthy relationships, and interdependence. They also explained facilitators that would increase their sexual self-advocacy such as expanding access to information and sexual health services, removing systemic barriers, educating others, increasing access to counseling, and developing opportunities for sexual expression. The significance of the study is the expansion of research on sexual self-advocacy by bringing the sexuality and self-advocacy literatures together, reinforcing the value of people with IDD as legitimate sources of information about their own experiences, and providing a sustainable and accessible research method for working with people with IDD.


Sexual self-advocacy Self-advocacy Intellectual and developmental disabilities Sexuality Sexual health Social work United States 



This paper was sponsored in part by a Grant from the Institute on Policy and Civic Engagement at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carli Friedman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Catherine K. Arnold
    • 1
  • Aleksa L. Owen
    • 1
  • Linda Sandman
    • 1
  1. 1.Disability and Human DevelopmentUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA

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