THE PHOTOGRAPHS of Michael Ferrara's face tell much of the story.
Blood pooling under his swollen eyes showed that the 25-year-old had been punched - hard. The marks around his neck were a clear sign of strangulation, his doctor said.
But Michael, who was living in a Delaware County group home for mentally handicapped adults at the time of the February 2008 assault, couldn't tell police what happened.
Born with a genetic mutation that caused severe brain damage and left him unable to speak or communicate normally, Michael can't identify his assailant.
"He can't even tell you who hurt him and what they did and how they did it," said his mother, Judi. "He's 25 years old, but he's like a child."
As a result, no charges were filed. And without a criminal conviction, whoever attacked Michael - police say most of the evidence pointed to his overnight caregiver - is free to work with similarly disabled adults.
"These people can continually work in the field," Ferrara said. "They can leave one agency and go to another agency."
That's because Pennsylvania is one of only five states in the nation without an adult-protection law that gives county or regional agencies the authority to investigate and record incidents of alleged abuse or neglect of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Children and the elderly are already covered.
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No Law to Protect Vulnerable Adults