‘Be careful out there…’

Trigger warning – reference to sexual violence

I recently found out that a friend had been sexually assaulted by a pervy creep.

When I first heard this news I was very angry. I considered  a scenario where I would find the creep and discover whether a man can actually die from being kicked in the nuts.  Knowing that these sorts of things are rather ugly too and that one form of violence is not solved by another, I abandoned my angry images and settled instead on being triggered and miserable for a fair while. I have good reason to feel triggered by such things: I had a similar experience 24 years ago as a naive and trusting 16 year old Aspergirl.

As I move through life and meet more and more people on the Autism spectrum, I discover that experiencing sexual – and other forms of violence is sadly very common. Looking at my own experience, I had a very low self esteem, I didn’t understand the non-verbal cues so by the time I felt threatened it was too late, and I actually didn’t know what my rights were in relation to my body. I’d heard about rape but it was always described in terms of a stranger or criminal and this man was a hippie and I’d been talking to him all evening. I had also grown up in a very strict church and was told that women weren’t supposed to enjoy sex, so I figured that what was happening was probably natural.

It’s quite easy to spot why young people on the Autism spectrum are vulnerable to violence, and another still to find a solution. I suppose what we need to do is start the conversation with our daughters and sons, nieces and nephews, grandchildren and friends. We have to make sure that they have self-protection skills – not just an awareness of ‘stranger danger’ as often an abuser is known to the child. We need to model confidence and assertiveness and teach young people how and when to say ‘no’.  Many good people are working to address issues around violence and young people on the spectrum. In my case, I would hope that in some way I can help people be safe and not have to experience what I know to be an invalidating and terrifying occurrence which can leave lifelong scars.

I will add that self-protection allows young people to be prepared and confident to address potential violence but the responsibility for the abuse always rests with the perpetrator. As some wise person said ‘How can you stop rape? Don’t rape people’.

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