It’s a horrible fact, but women with disabilities are extremely vulnerable. Statistics show that we’re three times more likely to be raped or abused. Women with autism in particular don’t pick up signs of danger as easily as others.
That makes us the perfect target.
I don’t like to reflect on this because I hate feeling like a victim. But I’ve made some poor sexual choices. I had a controlling, manipulative boyfriend. In retrospect, probably two.
Fortunately, though, I’ve never been assaulted. Maybe I’ve had just enough awareness to know if a man is likely to rape and/or kill me in the immediate future.
Or maybe I’ve just been lucky.
To all the autistic women out there, listen to what your gut tells you. I know we aren’t the most intuitive people in the world, but we may still have that self-protective instinct that tells us when something’s not right. I rarely understand consciously why someone seems “off.” But I do get a feeling of uneasiness around certain people. I’ve sometimes ignored those signs because I didn’t want to seem paranoid. Which, of course, is the stupidest thing we can do.
Creepy men will fuck anyone. But they especially have their antennae up for vulnerable-seeming young women. Very young. Like teenagers. My teens were the worst. Forty year old men would say things to me like “most girls around here are stupid sluts. You seem like such a nice girl.” If a grown man makes any kind of sexual comment about a teenager, ESPECIALLY to a (let’s face it) clearly oblivious girl like yourself, you’d be best off assuming he’s a pedophile and a psychopath.
We’re also vulnerable to more long-term abusive partners. Men like this start out by flattering you. He hones in on you because he sees that you’re probably not used to compliments. And trust me, he can see it. He’s been seeking out women like us for a long time. He knows you’re not used to compliments so he lays them on thick. He will tell you anything you want to hear. Especially that you’re smart. He knows that being smart (book smart at least) is where your self-esteem comes from.
His goal is to get you to believe that he’s the only person who sees this special trait in you. It’s a fast way to create a bond with someone: making them believe that the two of you are the only people in the world who know this important thing.
He might also try to show you that yes, he understands your plight. A well-dressed man I used to see around town said one day that it must be “hard for me.” I asked what he meant. He said “because you’re weird.”
I am weird. He knew I know I’m weird. And it’s obviously hard for weird girls to date. Plenty of men like us initially. Their intentions are good. But our quirks grate on them, and plenty of great guys can’t tolerate a woman with Asperger’s Syndrome for more than a couple of weeks.
This guy’s intentions were not good. Good people don’t call out people they barely know for things they’re insecure about. He wanted me to meet him at the bar. I didn’t. I found him attractive, but I don’t put up with that condescending bullshit. And neither should you.
Women with autism can be so desperate for attention that anyone who wants to be with us looks like a hero. And abusive guys are charming. They’ll single you out, making you feel like you’re the only girl in the world.
The first sign is isolation. He might tell you he doesn’t want you going out with a particular friend of yours. He might say she’s a bad influence. Maybe she is. But the point is he doesn’t trust you to make your own decisions. This will carry over to other parts of your relationship fast. He won’t want you having male friends either. Abusive men don’t want other men around.
(Watch out for men who don’t have male friends, by the way. It’s almost always a red flag. Women tend to be forgiving. But men know if another man is of poor character and they don’t want to be around them.)
A smarter abuser, like my ex, won’t make demands. Instead he’ll subtly talk down your family and friends, slowly making you think they’re bad for you. Eventually you’ll start to believe that he’s the only person in your life who knows what’s best for you. You won’t even realize it’s happening.
Not all abused women are oblivious though. It’s especially sad when women with autism willingly step into these relationships. I had a close friend who was charmed by an abusive man. He isolated her, pulled her out of school, and I can only imagine what else.
She knew deep down that he was going to become dangerous. She knew her father would never have approved of how he was treating her. She knew her friends wouldn’t tolerate it from their boyfriends. And yet, she stayed with him. Because she felt like she couldn’t do better.
We can do better. We all can. It’s infinitely better to be alone than abused by a partner. None of the men I’ve described here even deserve to be called “partners.” They don’t want to be “part” of anything. They just want to take what they think they deserve.
So be careful. Learn the signs. And most importantly, know that you are so much more than what some piece of shit guy wants from you.