People with autism often face abuse in their lives. Abuse is defined as “the inflicting of physical, mental, or sexual harm on someone else by force” (abuse). Though this definition comes from an English source, it has been reproduced here that all who read this may understand the information being relayed.
The three most common forms of abuse are emotional, physical, and financial. Each form of abuse is discussed in detail below.
Emotional Abuse – “is defined as the causing of someone to feel mentally tormented, attacked or abused” (emotional). There are many forms that emotional abuse can take. One example would be to insult a person with autism and then refuse to apologize for it, even after being corrected. This is an example of how it can be used as a control tactic.
Another example would be to taunt a person with autism by claiming they are able to do something, such as walk or talk. After the individual with autism tries and fails to accomplish this task, the abuser refuses to acknowledge that they were wrong. This is an example of how it can be used as a punishment tactic.
Many more examples exist for emotional abuse. The more obvious ones may even be seen as harmless, whereas some forms of emotional abuse may not be so clearly defined. Being aware of all types is important in identifying emotional abuse.
Physical Abuse – “is any intentional use of physical force against another person–that is, striking or pushing someone” (physical). There are some forms physical abuse can take, which begin subtly and then escalate into something worse, such as choking.
Another form of physical abuse involves restraint. Restraining someone is not necessarily bad, but the circumstances under which the restraints are used can be key to determining whether or not it is an act of abuse—not allowing someone access to food, water, toileting, personal hygiene products, etc.
While restraining someone may seem like a normal response to saving their life, as in the case of preventing them from running into traffic, it could also indicate something more if this was done for no reason at all and/or repeatedly over a short period of time.
Injuries such as bruises or broken bones from falling down or being pushed/shoved would constitute physical abuse, whereas injuries sustained during a sport would not qualify as physical abuse, given that sports are meant to involve physical contact. Having autism does not mean a person is exempt from being physically abused.
Emotional and/or physical abuse can be the result of having autism. In order to prevent this, it is important for parents/guardians, educators, caregivers, etc., to be aware of what forms these types of abuse take so they may identify them when necessary.
Financial Abuse – “involves illegally or improperly using a person’s finances or property” (financial). This happens in a number of ways, such as giving money freely to others while not allowing the individual with the disorder any access to their own money without requesting it first, which can often lead to misunderstandings due to communication issues associated with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
Another example of financial abuse is misusing a person’s finances by giving them access to it and then taking it back or spending their money for them without telling them. This form of financial abuse robs the individual with autism of one aspect of independence which can be frustrating for those with ASD as they like to feel as though they are in control over what happens to them.
Financial abuse is often hard to identify because it may not lead to any physical changes such as bruises, broken bones, etc. The best way to prevent this form of abuse is by having open and honest conversations about finances and ensuring that those with autism retain their independence whenever possible.
Abuse comes in all shapes and sizes and does not discriminate against socioeconomic status, race or religion; anyone can become a victim, and anyone can be an abuser.
More often than not, those with autism are the target for abuse. Having autism does not mean that one is any less human or worthy of respect than someone who does not have ASD.
These three types of abuse and many others are used strategically against individuals with autism. It is very important for people to understand that it is never acceptable or justifiable in any way to cause physical harm to someone else. This article will hopefully bring light to the misinformation that exists about autistic individuals and how they may face abuse in their lives.
It is important to recognize all types of abuse as well as how it manifests so as to better identify when it is occurring and know how best to address it in order for all parties involved to heal and continue on with their lives in a healthy way.