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Joined: 25 Aug 2013
Age: 65
Gender: Male
Posts: 31,936
Location: Long Island, New York

24 Jan 2023, 11:28 am

Autism may be risk factor for sexual abuse, but Grace Tame considers being autistic empowering

Grace Tame is best known as a childhood sexual abuse survivor and advocate from Tasmania who was named Australian of the Year in 2021. She is also autistic.

While she has been open and forthright about her autistic identity in recent years, she does have a complicated relationship with being labelled.

"Today we're seeing a lot of labels used as weapons, as absolute ways of dividing people and diminishing people," she said.

She said she believed a lack of understanding meant many of her statements and actions had been perceived in a harsh light.

"I've been accused many times of being manipulative and calculating," Ms Tame said.

"All I'm trying to do is play catch-up and understand. And that's one of the things that's really stigmatising.

"That, I think, belies the perception or notion that autistic people, or people who are neurodivergent, are really polarising."

But being autistic comes with a jarring reality.

For autistic women, and many people with disabilities, sexual and gendered violence is an all-too-common reality.

Tara Hunter is the director of clinical and client services at Full Stop Australia, an organisation that supports people affected by domestic, sexual, and family violence.

Ms Hunter acknowledged that despite this over-representation, there is rarely a singular cause or straightforward answer as to why this is the case.

Ms Tame said the complex nature of sexual grooming meant that predators could be highly manipulative and take advantage of instability in other areas of a young person's life.

She said it was not uncommon for victim-survivors to experience ongoing feelings of confusion and self-doubt, because grooming was a calculated and "subtle psychological process".

Ms Tame was quick to acknowledge that her autism was not the only factor and that things like her difficulties with anorexia nervosa also contributed to her vulnerability.

Ms Hunter said, most importantly, many disclosures of sexual abuse were still not believed.

Even with the experiences she has had, Ms Tame's feelings towards being autistic have remained largely positive.

"I've found that neurodivergent people are some of the most empathetic, some of the most fascinating, some of the most educative, brilliant people I've ever met and connected with," she said.

"I have found my home, my family in those bonds."

Professionally Identified and joined WP August 26, 2013
DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity

“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman