Autistic Girls Face Three Times the Risk of Sexual Assault

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TwilightPrincess
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15 Feb 2024, 11:48 am

The study in the following article was published in 2018, so I’m not sure if it’s come up on WP before.

Quote:
A recent study of 4,500 Swedish twins found that autistic girls from ages 9-18 were three times as likely to experience sexual assault when compared to their neurotypical counterparts. This statistic is particularly alarming as girls and women with characteristics of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) already face difficulties receiving the diagnosis, with the average age of diagnosis being 16 years of age. Kirsten Lindsmith, an autistic advocate and blogger, explains why these girls are at an increased risk for sexual assault:

“Autistic people have a kind of manual transmission brain, as we have to learn social skills, instead of it coming naturally. This combines with patriarchy, consent culture, and issues with sexuality. We don’t cognitively multitask very well and reading social situations doesn’t happen intuitively. In our society, a lot of how sexuality and courtship works is indirect, not overt, and requires this dance of nonverbal communication. Autistic people are not inherently equipped unless they learn it painstakingly, and then it often still takes a lot more effort to maintain. It’s a disadvantage.”

Not only do social deficits put them at greater risk for sexual assault, but it is also continuous social rejection that is often a part of growing up autistic. This can lead to increased receptivity to positive social attention, making it difficult to distinguish true, warm friendship from predatory behaviour:

“Having that directed positive attention can be so hypnotizing for someone with that background. There’s this level of social trauma in autism that will frequently make people really grateful to someone who is directing a lot of positive attention. Sexual desire from predators can look a lot like positive attention, being friendly, really liking you, thinking you’re funny. All these types of things that don’t come from indirect courtship. They’re going to talk to you specifically more than other people, smile at you, look at you more, maybe stand close to you, touch you a little – all those things that you may be starved for.”

https://trauma.blog.yorku.ca/2022/04/au ... l-assault/

Link to study:
https://acamh.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/d ... jcpp.12884

Abstract:
Quote:
Background

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and other related neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) have, in some previous studies, been shown to increase the risk of being sexually victimized. However, no studies have examined whether the association is driven by a general NDD phenotype versus specific diagnoses, nor the etiology of the association.

Method

Using a genetically informative, prospective design, we examined the association between ASD and ADHD in childhood and coercive sexual victimization up to age 18. A total of 4,500 children participating in the Child and Adolescent Twin Study in Sweden (CATSS) were rated by their parents on NDDs at age 9 or 12 years, and self-reported at age 18 on lifetime experiences of coercive sexual touching and/or coercive sex. First, we regressed sexual victimization on the NDDs. Second, we regressed sexual victimization on general and specific NDD symptoms identified via a bifactor model. Third, we decomposed the observed associations into genetic and environmental parts.

Results

In females, ASD was associated with an almost threefolded increased risk of coercive sexual victimization, and ADHD with a doubled risk. In males, the risk associated with ASD and ADHD was of the same magnitude but not significant. When controlling for overall NDD symptom load ASD or ADHD, no longer uniquely predicted coercive sexual victimization. The association between the NDD general factor and coercive sexual victimization was due to shared genetics.

Conclusions

General NDD symptom load, rather than specific ASD or ADHD symptoms, seems to be a moderate vulnerability factor for coercive sexual victimization. We speculate that an evocative gene–environment correlation might account for this observation, such that sexual perpetrators actively target NDD individuals.


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honeytoast
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15 Feb 2024, 12:16 pm

Interesting read.


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TwilightPrincess
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15 Feb 2024, 12:21 pm

^ I’m really pleased that this topic is getting the attention it deserves. I’m sure it’s helping a lot of people understand their experiences. Hopefully, it will lead to prevention through greater awareness/education too, not that prevention is always possible. I think education would’ve helped me.

A different study from an article titled “Evidence That Nine Autistic Women Out of Ten Have Been Victims of Sexual Violence”:

Quote:
Background

Research indicates that sexual violence affects about 30% of women in the general population and between two to three times as much for autistic women.

Materials and Methods

We investigated prevalence of sexual abuse, autistic traits and a range of symptoms, using an online survey addressed to the women of the French autistic community (n = 225). We assessed victimization through an open question and through a specific questionnaire, derived from the Sexual Experiences Survey-Short Form Victimization.

Results

Both case identification methods yielded high figures: 68.9% victimization (open question) compared to 88.4% (standardized questionnaire). Two thirds of the victims were very young when they were first assaulted: among 199 victims, 135 were aged 18 or below and 112 participants were aged 15 or below. 75% of participants included in our study reported several aggressions. Analyses indicate that primo-victimization was highly correlated to revictimization and that being young increased that risk. Young victims were also at higher risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder. A third of the victims reported the assault. 25% of those were able to file a complaint (n = 12) and/or receive care (n = 13). For the remainder 75%, reporting did not lead to action.
Quote:
Sexual revictimization among our participants was very important: 84.9% of victims were revictimized (n = 169 out of 199). In other words, 75.1% of all participants reported several aggressions. By contrast, only 13.3% (n = 30) were assaulted just once over their lifetime – with the assault consisting of unwanted sexual touching for most of them (n = 22).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9087551/

There’s lots of good information here:
https://autism.org/sexual-victimization-in-autism/


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Last edited by TwilightPrincess on 15 Feb 2024, 1:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.

blitzkrieg
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15 Feb 2024, 12:56 pm

I have read in various places that the likelihood of people with mental health issues of being sexually assaulted is also higher than that of the non mentally ill population.

This research doesn't surprise me.



DanielW
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15 Feb 2024, 1:08 pm

One factor that is always overlooked is that ABA "therapy" stresses absolute compliance to instruction - and not being able to say "NO" without fear of negative consequences.



TwilightPrincess
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15 Feb 2024, 1:19 pm

DanielW wrote:
One factor that is always overlooked is that ABA "therapy" stresses absolute compliance to instruction - and not being able to say "NO" without fear of negative consequences.

I didn’t know about that. That’s really disturbing.


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15 Feb 2024, 1:30 pm

I think what the men (here) need to realize is that despite men and women being autistic, our diagnosis does not shield us from misogyny and patriarchy. An autistic man will still benefit from the system because he is a man. He is not going to face the world as a woman does, despite sharing the factor of being autistic.


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DanielW
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15 Feb 2024, 1:36 pm

Not to go off topic, but for underage neurotypical males the average number who are assaulted is 1 in 6. that number drops to 1 in 4 for those who are Neurodiverse. That number is higher in those who are also non or semi verbal.

I would imagine a speech delay in girls would further increase their risk as well.



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15 Feb 2024, 2:47 pm

DanielW wrote:
One factor that is always overlooked is that ABA "therapy" stresses absolute compliance to instruction - and not being able to say "NO" without fear of negative consequences.


Are you taking about saying no to strangers, partners or family members?



TwilightPrincess
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15 Feb 2024, 2:54 pm

Children shouldn’t be taught not to say “no” OR be urged to engage in absolute compliance to anyone. After all, children are most often abused by family members and acquaintances. I haven’t raised my son with the concept that older people are more worthy of respect than younger people.

However, I’d appreciate it if we kept to the topic of sexual abuse among autistic girls and women.


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15 Feb 2024, 2:57 pm

TwilightPrincess wrote:
Children shouldn’t be taught not to say “no” OR be urged to engage in absolute compliance to anyone. After all, children are most often abused by family members and acquaintances. I haven’t raised my son with the concept that older people are more worthy of respect than younger people.

However, I’d appreciate it if we kept to the topic of sexual abuse among autistic girls and women.


Is there a connection between ABA and vulnerability to predators down the track?



TwilightPrincess
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15 Feb 2024, 3:00 pm

cyberdad wrote:
TwilightPrincess wrote:
Children shouldn’t be taught not to say “no” OR be urged to engage in absolute compliance to anyone. After all, children are most often abused by family members and acquaintances. I haven’t raised my son with the concept that older people are more worthy of respect than younger people.

However, I’d appreciate it if we kept to the topic of sexual abuse among autistic girls and women.


Is there a connection between ABA and vulnerability to predators down the track?

There could be if it involves teaching them not to say “no” without consequences and to engage in absolute compliance.


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Last edited by TwilightPrincess on 15 Feb 2024, 3:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

cyberdad
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15 Feb 2024, 3:08 pm

My daughter is 18 and has had male NT friends in highschool whom at least one she allowed to kiss her. When my wife and I thought she was being possibly taken advantage off she as the male involved made her feel kissing was normal, I am still not 100% sure she complied because she wanted to reciprocate or because he brainwashed her? She keeps saying he's just a friend (not a boyfriend).

Nows she's in college the same boy managed to get her phone number and call her, She at least stood up for herself and told him she is too busy now to meet up. I'm hoping she understood now that she was being manipulated.



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15 Feb 2024, 3:13 pm

cyberdad wrote:
My daughter is 18 and has had male NT friends in highschool whom at least one she allowed to kiss her. When my wife and I thought she was being possibly taken advantage off she as the male involved made her feel kissing was normal, I am still not 100% sure she complied because she wanted to reciprocate or because he brainwashed her? She keeps saying he's just a friend (not a boyfriend).

Nows she's in college the same boy managed to get her phone number and call her, She at least stood up for herself and told him she is too busy now to meet up. I'm hoping she understood now that she was being manipulated.


Why don't you ask her? I'm not sure that we should think that people aren't capable of consenting just because they're on the spectrum.



TwilightPrincess
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15 Feb 2024, 3:14 pm

Has she read any books or watched any videos on this topic or would she do it? I remember seeing a book awhile back for autistic young women that could be helpful. It covers consent and stuff like that. Of course, there are YouTube videos as well. If she’s in college, she should be prepared. Something like 1 in 5 college women experience assault. It’s probably much higher for autistic women.

I’m not saying that her experience wasn’t consensual though. Even most autistic women like being kissed. It’s impossible to say one way or the other.


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15 Feb 2024, 3:16 pm

TwilightPrincess wrote:
The study in the following article was published in 2018, so I’m not sure if it’s come up on WP before.
Quote:
A recent study of 4,500 Swedish twins found that autistic girls from ages 9-18 were three times as likely to experience sexual assault when compared to their neurotypical counterparts. This statistic is particularly alarming as girls and women with characteristics of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) already face difficulties receiving the diagnosis, with the average age of diagnosis being 16 years of age. Kirsten Lindsmith, an autistic advocate and blogger, explains why these girls are at an increased risk for sexual assault:

“Autistic people have a kind of manual transmission brain, as we have to learn social skills, instead of it coming naturally. This combines with patriarchy, consent culture, and issues with sexuality. We don’t cognitively multitask very well and reading social situations doesn’t happen intuitively. In our society, a lot of how sexuality and courtship works is indirect, not overt, and requires this dance of nonverbal communication. Autistic people are not inherently equipped unless they learn it painstakingly, and then it often still takes a lot more effort to maintain. It’s a disadvantage.”

Not only do social deficits put them at greater risk for sexual assault, but it is also continuous social rejection that is often a part of growing up autistic. This can lead to increased receptivity to positive social attention, making it difficult to distinguish true, warm friendship from predatory behaviour:

“Having that directed positive attention can be so hypnotizing for someone with that background. There’s this level of social trauma in autism that will frequently make people really grateful to someone who is directing a lot of positive attention. Sexual desire from predators can look a lot like positive attention, being friendly, really liking you, thinking you’re funny. All these types of things that don’t come from indirect courtship. They’re going to talk to you specifically more than other people, smile at you, look at you more, maybe stand close to you, touch you a little – all those things that you may be starved for.”

https://trauma.blog.yorku.ca/2022/04/au ... l-assault/

Link to study:
https://acamh.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/d ... jcpp.12884

Abstract:
Quote:
Background

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and other related neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) have, in some previous studies, been shown to increase the risk of being sexually victimized. However, no studies have examined whether the association is driven by a general NDD phenotype versus specific diagnoses, nor the etiology of the association.

Method

Using a genetically informative, prospective design, we examined the association between ASD and ADHD in childhood and coercive sexual victimization up to age 18. A total of 4,500 children participating in the Child and Adolescent Twin Study in Sweden (CATSS) were rated by their parents on NDDs at age 9 or 12 years, and self-reported at age 18 on lifetime experiences of coercive sexual touching and/or coercive sex. First, we regressed sexual victimization on the NDDs. Second, we regressed sexual victimization on general and specific NDD symptoms identified via a bifactor model. Third, we decomposed the observed associations into genetic and environmental parts.

Results

In females, ASD was associated with an almost threefolded increased risk of coercive sexual victimization, and ADHD with a doubled risk. In males, the risk associated with ASD and ADHD was of the same magnitude but not significant. When controlling for overall NDD symptom load ASD or ADHD, no longer uniquely predicted coercive sexual victimization. The association between the NDD general factor and coercive sexual victimization was due to shared genetics.

Conclusions

General NDD symptom load, rather than specific ASD or ADHD symptoms, seems to be a moderate vulnerability factor for coercive sexual victimization. We speculate that an evocative gene–environment correlation might account for this observation, such that sexual perpetrators actively target NDD individuals.


Yes, it has come up before. I think there might be threads about it here from even before 2018, people talking about their experiences with it at least.