For the Survivors: Autistic people and our #MeToo memories

Editor’s note: content notice for sexual trauma, grooming, and crimes of exploitation against people with disabilities

I never did like the word victim. After all, how could I— as someone who is around 6 foot 3 inches tall— believe that someone I turned to in my time of need would ever take advantage of me? How could I suspect that someone would ever use me in a way that made me feel so dirty that only extensive therapy could help clean my spirit?

And now, I’m ready to talk about it— my #MeToo experience and the collateral of existing in a neurotypical world where disabled human beings make up one of the largest demographics among the survivors of sexual violence.

For years I had dealt with physical and verbal abuse at the hands of people who did not understand me. Beatings, mind games, and verbal and physical assaults if I didn’t behave, perform, and generally submit to certain individuals. Asking for help was always a risk, and financially, I began to feel like I was being extorted.

There was one particularly violent incident where I was choked because of an argument, one which ensued when I asked for help cleaning for the holidays. A spiteful family member referred to my SSI (disability income) by saying that I was “only receiving money because [I was] r*tarded.”

This broke me mentally and spiritually.

It was something cruel, ableist, and completely normalized as other family members did nothing to hold the individual accountable. After years of abuse, this incident which served as the icing on the cake, was the last straw.

Determined to be free from this kind of treatment, I made a terrible, terrible decision.

I left, and where I moved was to Erie, Pennsylvania— straight into the arms of neurotypical individuals who had, in hindsight, been grooming me for years.

The family in question played to my inner child, like its own separate persona, exploiting the trauma and abuse that I’d experienced.

They promised me they would be the parents of my dream. They told me I’d have a home where I wouldn’t be abused, beaten, or exploited with the financial burden of others.

At first, it seemed like paradise. I was in the country and not a foul, polluted city. We went places. It was new and scary, but I felt accepted as a nonbinary Autistic person of color– until a fateful night when something happened that damaged and confused me in a way I couldn’t understand at first.

A woman, one of the heads of this household, convinced me that she would heal my trauma, that she would be the kind of parent I needed. She got me in bed, and I can’t bring myself to describe what happened after. I am ashamed of how my body responded to it.

Those who have survived it, who have been through this, know. And in my case, this person, whom I dared to call mommy used my body.

And it didn’t end there. Mommy wanted me to keep quiet. She threatened me with neglect and homelessness after her actions, not only sexually traumatizing me but preying on my innocence and using my body to cheat on her husband.

I no longer live with with those people, who after I fled the residence with the help of authorities managed to keep thousands of dollars of my belongings, along with my faith in this world.

Currently, I have nightmares most every night. I am working through this pain with a trauma-informed therapist. Many amazing advocates within the Autistic community told me their own stories, their own “me toos,” and they have helped me to process my pain.

I share my story with all of you to let you know that there is life after experiencing sexual trauma. I also wish to raise awareness for how often this happens to autistic people, sometimes multiple times in their lives.

Neurodivergence and sexual assault is a conversation that the #MeToo movement has missed and that needs to be talked about more often. I hope that by sharing my story, others will be more aware of who they choose to be part of their found family and know to look out for signs of grooming.

As I start to move forward, if only at a crawl, I hope that more autistic people will know they are not alone and that they don’t give up on life after trauma.

When the #MeToo movement was first started. Many amazing women and men and nonbinary folk came out with their stories of sexual trauma and survival from it. One of the voices that truly went unheard— as it so often does— was the voice of neurodivergent, and in particular, autistic people.

Broadly, the voices of disabled people were not amplified when the world was first centering the endemic matter of sexual assault. However, there is no time like the present, and this is an ongoing movement. I never thought I would see the day where I would be able to speak out about the pain that I endured, but I know that I am not alone in this.

Thank you for being the Community I needed.

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8 Responses

  1. #MeToo autistic (white) woman diagnosed at the age of 67 who knows your life story all too well. and acknowledges the importance of speaking out as i still believe this is the only way this kind of abuse will ever stop.

    1. Thank you for your kind response. I am also a firm believer that these crimes will never cease until people realize that no survivors should be excluded. Thst once people ban together real change could be accomplished. Thank you for sharing and for this comment.

  2. i have been pondering this addition for a few days, but i want to add that i am very aware how much harder it is for men to talk about sexual abuse than women. and acknowledge your courage in speaking out in a world that silences men far more than it silences women. and also acknowledge your strength of character overcoming the culturally induced shame.

    1. I’m actually nonbinary and not male, but I greatly appreciate the sentiment. Especially acknowledging how hard it fan be for those who are masculine in appearance. Thank you so much for your kind words as I was so afraid for very long of speaking out , out of fear of being silenced, threatened , and outright ignored just as many AFAB people tend to be. It’s scary speaking out against people who did it as a person of color too because of cultural erasure. Your words mean alot to me as an enby/ Indigenous Two-Spirit Person

  3. oh dear, my sincere apologies for getting your gender identity wrong. i assumed male from your name of course and as a women with an “androgynous” name who identfies she/her lesbian, i should have thought to be more careful. so thank you for your understanding. i continue to learn as a human of my generation – i am now 70 – and learning never ceases. i am also aware from working in community services how hard it is for people of colour in australia to report abuse also.

    1. It’s OK. Andrew is actually my Deadname and I thought that had been changed. I use the indigenous name affirmed by my elders and also those within various indigenous American tribes whove come to call me son, nephew etc. Because as I reconnected with an aspect of my family that parents began to shy from I wanted to step away from the americanized name which was used in abuse.

  4. #MeToo. Thank you for sharing your story.

    (Trigger warning for sexual abuse including paedophilia)

    I have been abused by many, but the most prominent was my highschool sweetheart. She (we were both girls, though like you I am nonbinary) dated me because she was a self described “hebophile” and not only did I look younger than I was, 16 and she was 18, but I acted younger too. At the time I didn’t know that I was autistic, I wouldn’t go on to be diagnosed until I was 19, but I did know I was different. She took advantage of that. I didn’t learn about this disgusting “preference” she had until after we had broken up, but even then I had already realized I had been abused. She used me for sex, groomed me into being interested in very inappropriate hentai (big sister little sister shit, yuck) and emotionally neglected me for video games on top of that! And of course it was her abuse that led me to seek out other abusive people. A lot of my trauma is technically my own doing, I actively sought out ways to re-traumatize myself, but of course that doesn’t absolve the guilt of the people that chose to participate.

    Hearing the experiences of other disabled, especially autistic, LGBT+ people is very helpful to me. So again, thank you so much for sharing your story.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story. This means a great deal to me. The way CPTSD and my Autistic personality class due to a large number of A.C.E.’s when I’m safe my mind and behavior reverts to an almost childlike and visibly younger state. Usually I stick closer to a parental or maternal figure when I’m calm and feel safe. If I’m alone I mask and dress in a way that people perceive as Goth. To combat my trauma I once fell into a great darkness. Became a dangerous martial artist and vigilante who stopped various crimes of sexusl violence, robberies, etc. Because I never wanted what happened to me to happen to others. When I read your story it gives me flashbacks associated with the half of my personality that would help others and then vanish before the authorities arrived. It sounds ridiculous but when I see stories like yours it reminds me that Autistic people deal with such trauma and are forced to become stronger or be washed away in the cruel waves of time. I am quite emotional today and your story brings tears to my eyes. People like you are the reason why we must never stop fighting. Be it in writing, human rights marches or just SURVIVING in a world that says we can’t.

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