September 16, 2021

Vulnerability of autism to abuse

By rosieweldon

The past week has given me a realisation that has shifted how I see my mental vulnerability. There is no denying that my mind is vulnerable to attack. I am hypersensitive to any sensory input, including noise, lights, and physical presence around me. I also have hyper-empathy which means I have an increased emotional response to triggers that other people may not and as an autistic person struggle to understand and regulate my own emotions.  

Not only do I take more in from these factors, but my mind can’t cope with processing too much (especially emotion) at once. This means it is incredibly easy to overwhelm me to the point of a visual reaction. If you provide me with information I don’t understand (for example telling me I said or did something that I did not), I am likely to hit overload and/or autistic meltdown. For me, this usually presents itself through uncontrollable crying and needing to put pressure on myself, bordering on self-injury. For most people it isn’t a nice thing to see. For those who care about me, it isn’t nice to see.

But what happens if I cross paths with someone who wants that response? Who thrives off pushing someone to that point?

It has suddenly hit me that I have spent years focusing on my reaction, trying to control my response to unwanted triggers. Not once have I stopped to blame the perpetrator. The more I think about it, the more it makes no sense.

If I know my brother has recently burned his hand, and I grab his hand to pull him up, who is in the wrong? Who should apologise? It would be me, of course. I would apologise for hurting a vulnerable part of his hand and forgetting it was injured.

So, what happens if someone knows I am autistic, knows their actions will push me to an autistic meltdown, and does it anyway? When they see me starting to struggle, I even ask them to stop, and they keep going? Who is in the wrong? Well life experience has taught me that I am in the wrong. I apologise for my psychological pain driven response of autistic meltdown.

If someone in my life repeatedly does things that they know will cause me mental distress, then that is psychological abuse. It does not matter if it would have the same affect on the next person. The fact is they know it would on me. They know I can not cope with being treated in that way.

In the same way someone with a burned hand deserves to be treated gently, I deserve my mind to be treated gently.

Autistic people are vulnerable to psychological abuse. We are more susceptible to it, it affects us more, and gaslighting us (I wrote a blog about gaslighting here) is easy. I know I am a perfect target for a narcissistic person that wants to push me until the point I break, and then blame me for my reaction.

The difference is I don’t blame myself anymore, I blame them.

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