When you’re autistic, it’s not abuse, it’s therapy

Trigger warning: abuse, discrimination, gas lighting

I am angry.
Off the top of my head, I cannot think of an autistic person I know who has not been abused.
I saw children thrown to the floor by screaming adults for rocking their chairs. By special ed teachers. So I sat still I had quiet hands I closed my mouth and chewed my tongue into corned beef and I went home and tore apart the skin that had been cinching tighter and tighter around me all day.
They didn’t believe my friend who loved dressing up like a princess or my friend who loved computer programming or me.
Oh, I finally thought of an autistic person who wasn’t abused. And another. Out of the dozens and dozens of autistic people whose memoirs/blogs I have read – autism is my “special interest”. (Oh, you said “special-interest” instead of “perseveration”. You get your disability positivity points for the day, now you can pat me on the head and call me a savant and have a nice little debate about whether I am real.)
The thing is that my mom is the Perfect Advocate Parent. The thing is that she does this because she cares about me. The thing is that she does this all to teach me to be socially appropriate and to fix my behavior problems. The thing is that she kicked me over and threw me to the ground because she knew that I could sweep better than that, that I was actually refusing to sweep by saying I was doing the best I could, and that it is Not Okay to not do what an adult tells you to do – downright dangerous, in fact. That could generalize to me running out in the street or seriously hurting people or mouthing off to a police officer. (I got bruises from where she kept me safe.)
I knew I deserved it because she ended her dragging me by the hair and twisting my arm by hugging me and forgiving me for making her do this.
She’s a Good Parent. She was only following the plan. She was doing the best she could.
I have PTSD.
(So common as to be almost routine in autistic adults.)
(When you’re autistic, it’s not abuse, it’s therapy.)
More than 90%, it is estimated, of people with developmental disabilities will experience sexual abuse in our lives. I couldn’t find statistics for physical or emotional.
If you are a teacher, or otherwise one of the Trusted Adults (registered trademark) of a disabled person, and they report something that sounds like abuse – it probably is.
Even if they don’t report anything, they are probably being, or will be abused.
Isn’t that terrifying? Aren’t you angry?
All the therapists and autism experts or whatever didn’t believe us/believed anything was justified and even necessary so we wouldn’t end up murdering people/ending up in an institution (of course stigma and negative stereotypes don’t do any harm! You know you’d have to be retarded to think something like that!)
Please stop teaching compliance. Please stop teaching compliance.
Please believe us. (One of the major differences, often, between a person who experiences traumatic events and develops PTSD and a person who doesn’t develop PTSD is that the person who doesn’t develop it has a support system. Of people who talk about it with them. Who don’t say, that never happened, or, that’s all your fault.)
(She was a Good Parent and I got bruises.)
(90%. We are not alone.)


4 thoughts on “When you’re autistic, it’s not abuse, it’s therapy

  1. Would yo say that the most important thing that the “Trusted Adult” can do is to listen carefully and believe, even if the story sounds ridiculous? That makes sense.

    Also, what would you consider to be reasonable? I would be very interested in knowing, if you were putting yourself or someone else in danger, how would you like your parent to deal with it? After all, this applies to any child, whether they have autism or not.

    • I think it’s important to remember that restraint is ultimately a type of violence.
      Sometimes it may be necessary to prevent greater violence but it is never harmless.
      If kids have violent outbursts, I also believe in prevention: don’t touch kids who don’t want to be touched, don’t corner kids, don’t force kids who are trying to leave painful situations to stay.
      But this post was not about reasonable restraint. This post was not about kids putting other people in danger, though I may write a post about that someday. I find it somewhat disturbing that I say, “This is a thing that is wrong. This is a way people hurt me.” and you say “But when are cases where that thing would be okay?”

      • I know what you mean Abby. I want to try to understand the best way to help that keeps everyone safe but also respects their dignity. The only way to do that is to ask someone who knows how it feels. And you are someone who knows, so any advice you can give is very welcome. Thank you. I look forward to the post about what to do if someone is in danger.

  2. Heartbreaking, and truthfully spoken with true grit of a survivor who isn’t living in the bitter. Thank you for sharing your voice, and this truth.

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