90% OF AUTISTIC WOMEN ARE SEX ATTACK VICTIMS
Earlier diagnosis could help keep girls safe
A HARROWING report shows 90 per cent of autistic women have been the victims of sexual assault – and 75 per cent have experienced aggression or physical violence.
But tragically only a small number of the victims report crimes to police.
The research by medical publisher Frontiers – backed by the World Health Organization – revealed that more than 56 per cent of the victims were 15 or younger.
Now the Scottish Women’s Autism Network (SWAN) has teamed up with Police Scotland to help shape its new Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy.
Many of its members told of the abuse they suffered in the hope of raising awareness to create strategies to help women like them.
Becky Choat, one of the project leads at SWAN, said: “We can be very vulnerable to people who might want to make decisions for us or who might tell us how to think, how to feel or how to act because we have experienced that from a lot of people in our lives growing up.
“A lot of the work we did with Police Scotland was around accessibility of reporting if you do feel something isn’t right.”
Lyndsay Macadam, SWAN’s CEO, said: “Becky and I are both autistic, as is everyone else at SWAN. As autistic women we tend to be straight talking and honest. We don’t tend to use language which hides things, we tend to say what we mean and we expect that from other people as well, so that element of reading other people’s intentions isn’t always necessarily about our inability, it is about our expectation that people are honest and upfront.
“We are not necessarily recognised as being valid and empowered enough to be telling our own story and talking about our experiences. Autism is the thing that people see rather than what our experience of domestic violence has been for example, and it is quite easy for us to be undermined.”
The women believe an early diagnosis of their condition would make a huge difference in being able to cope and prevent girls becoming victims.
Lyndsay said the diagnosis could also help prevent mental health issues developing. Becky was in her 30s and Lyndsay was 45 before they were diagnosed.
Becky said: “Autistic adults are seven to nine times more likely to die by suicide and we make up around 25-30 per cent of women with anorexia but we only make up around one per cent of the population so the disparity is huge.”
The women acknowledge the work currently being done by the Scottish Government to improve things for autistic people through a new Bill and a campaign of awareness.
But Lyndsay said: “The main thing that needs to change is the access to diagnosis.
“We need to have enough diagnostic services so we have the services and pathways across the country.”