Research Shows 9 Out of 10 Autistic Women Have Been the Victim of Sexual Violence
According to a recent study, 9 out of 10 autistic women have been victims of sexual violence. The findings, published in Frontiers in Behavioral Science, show that most victims were 15 years old or younger when they experienced the first instance of assault. In addition, the majority of the women studied reported having experienced multiple instances of aggression. However, only a small percentage filed a complaint or received care.

The Frontiers study is reportedly one of the largest studies on autistic women. Prior research showed the rate of sexual aggression against non-autistic women to be one on three. However, seventy-five percent of study participants reported having been victimized multiple times, and two-thirds reported that the abuse began when they were under 18. Those who were abused when they were under 18 had a higher risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder. Only one-third of victims reported the assaults; even then, there was no follow-up treatment or prosecution.

One study author stated: "Given that being on the autism spectrum condition is characterized by experiencing difficulties in social communication, such as decoding hidden intentions and emotions of others, understanding implicit communication and elements of context, it is expected that women on the spectrum may be at considerable risk for sexual victimization, a hypothesis confirmed by all published studies on this topic."

Researchers noted that because many victims were under 18 when first victimized, education may not be the most effective form of prevention. Instead, they concluded that systemic change would be needed to address this issue stating that "Large-scale prevention programs proposed by World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control aim at cultural changes in order to diminish gender inequality that they identify as the very root of sexual violence."

These Frontier findings are consistent with a 2018 Swedish twin study that found that girls with autism from ages 9 to 18 were three times as likely to experience sexual assault as girls without a diagnosis. Coupled with the fact that females are more likely to experience delayed diagnosis, many more undiagnosed women and girls with autism may have experienced sexual violence.

If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental disabilities. To schedule a consultation, contact us or call (509) 991-7058.

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