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.
- For the Survivors: Autistic people and our #MeToo memories - November 4, 2021
- Home at Last: Finding Your True Family When You’re Misunderstood - February 14, 2021
- Angry Political Autistics: On the link between white supremacy, privilege, and systemic oppression - January 8, 2021