February 9, 2021

Autism and gaslighting

By rosieweldon

Gaslighting is when someone makes someone else doubt their own experiences. It is a form of abuse in which the person is left questioning their own reality and memories. It is disorientating and confusing, it leaves you doubting your own mind. This is done so the person doing it can get away with whatever it is that they are trying to cover up – often abusive behaviour.

Why is this relevant to autism? Because autistic people are extremely susceptible to gaslighting.

With autistic people being accused of ‘overreacting’, our sensory experiences going misunderstood and our behaviours different to the norms – it makes it easier for someone to take advantage and manipulate other people’s perception of us.

What happens when an autistic person has a meltdown, because of abuse, and the abuser blames autism? Does the abusive behaviour get noted or is it washed away in claims of an overreaction?

I have literally had someone in the workplace ask me if I ‘understood the situation properly’ or may have ‘mistaken what was happening’ when I reported unacceptable workplace behaviour that upset me. Their instinct when I said something was said about me – was to question my own experience. I knew what I had heard. But I dropped it because I wasn’t going to fight to be believed.

That was just an off-hand comment by someone using autism against me. What happens if that is a family member or a partner that repeatedly uses autism as a way to treat you how they want. Trust me – it happens.

Autistic people’s experiences are valid. Our accounts of what happened, matter. You should not dismiss an autistic person’s claims of unfair or even abusive behaviour, because they are autistic.

Autistic people are more likely to be mentally abused. We are less likely to be believed. That’s a disgusting reality that has to change.

Yes, there are times I don’t understand a situation. I would be the first to admit that. But with gaslighting the abuser can purposefully use this against me. I know I don’t always process things correctly, so when someone is telling me I got it wrong, I start to question it. Even if I was previously adamant at what had been said and done. If an autistic person is adamant that something has happened, or something was said, please believe them.

Autistic people deserve to be heard. We deserve support and understanding if someone is mistreating us.

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