Until I entered into the neurodiversity movement I felt a little lost and isolated. One thing I have observed particularly with women on the spectrum is many of us have or are currently being treated for post traumatic stress disorder. That is an observation, its not based on any empirical data collected over a few years and believe me I have looked but found little or next to no studies that have researched how women are being treated or what services are accessible for them when they finally diagnosed with autism. Women present differently to men on the spectrum, therefore are over looked when seeking assistance.
You know what else we have in common? Sexual abuse, rape, assault, robbery, domestic violence and being taken advantage of. I’ll give you an example – in theory I know when a man approaches me late at night at a bus stop or outside and randomly asks how I am or a private question I should have my guard up and tell them to back off, fuck off or alert anyone who is near to his unwanted presence.
In theory that is a logical step to take but in practice its a whole other matter – you know what happens? I’m at a bus stop late a night from my work shift, a man smiles at me, I smile back not thinking anything of it just an automatic response. The man sees my smile as an invitation to approach me, he asks me how I am doing and I tell him I am fine. The man in question then asks me if I have a boyfriend and other personal questions and crosses over into my space making me feel uncomfortable: Five minutes into a conversation with a predator my brain starts working and I realise I am in danger. For days after the event I will analysis the situation wondering where I went wrong, how will I manage the next confrontation (and there will always be another one) and torture myself with the feelings of helplessness, guilt and nativity.
So far I’ve been lucky, not so much in personal relationships with predators but outside with strangers I’ve not been harmed yet.. Does it worry me? Sure. I realise not all men are rapists or will attack me but the reaction time and reading a situation takes a bit longer than usual compared to an allistic woman.
I feel we are magnets for predatory behaviour. I’ve spoken to women who have been so lonely for friendship that other women or men will get close only to take what they need it, from money to sex and then dumped the person as soon as they get what they want. I’ve experienced this too I give money away without thinking about it and have had to get tougher in recent years. I won’t go too much into the predatory behaviour I’ve experienced in personal relationships with men as its too triggering.
We have shared these experiences with each other but none of us have reached a conclusion or a resolution to stop it from happening. Statistics suggest an autistic person is less likely to be violent but are at a higher risk of being abused. So what can we do to prevent this?
I have no immediate solutions. I think the first step is identifying women on the spectrum who are a risk and putting a programme together to learn safety skills. To run work shops in conjunction with organisations like the rape crisis centre in our localities. The allistic community are not doing it for us so ladies I think its about time we start to try and help ourselves and learn these valuable skills and pass them onto the next generation of autistic women and girls.