Bullying & Abuse

Many autistic people find themselves in bullying or otherwise abusive relationships, whether with a partner, a family member, a colleague, a “friend”, or the woman down the road… Many more don’t realise, or struggle to accept, their situations could be abusive, and can’t work out what’s going on. Abusers will make much of your autism (or any other disability), blaming you for his or her own behaviour (e.g. “I’m only like this because you’re impossible to live with”). This leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-worth, anxiety, and depression.

Autistic people are particularly vulnerable to abuse: we don’t instinctively understand “normal” social interaction; we often don’t understand that other people think differently; we can be poor judges of character; we often feel ostracised and isolated by society; we spend our lives being told we’re “wrong” even by people who love us – so we’ve given up listening by the time we’re warned about an abuser; we’re often seen as fussy and oversensitive – so people don’t listen when we ask for help; we are often already suffering depression/anxiety; we often have cripplingly low self-esteem; we are very often needy and desperate for approval. This all makes us prime candidates for manipulation.

Pilot Study
In early 2014, Life on the Spectrum conducted a random online-survey, asking 100 autistic people (with both formal and self-diagnoses) if they had been bullied/abused, what type of bullying/abuse they had experienced, and who had perpetrated it. The results were worrying, and showed that further research was essential.

Future Research
We are now colaborating with a social researcher to design new, more in-depth surveys, starting with the experiences of autistic adults in the UK; if you would like to be involved, please sign up to our “research” newsletter in the sidebar. Alternatively, look out for more information on the research pages in the new year.

This “Abuse” section of the website is being developed gradually, with Abuse Tactics, The Cycle of Abuse, Where to Get Help (UK), and Early Warning Signs are already in place. Watch out for “Coping Strategies” coming soon. If there is any particular topic you would like to see covered, please let us know.

Recommended Reading
Living with the Dominator, by Pat Craven
Who’s Pulling Your Strings?, by Harriet Braiker

Related Content
» Abuse Tactics
» The Cycle of Abuse
» Early Warning Signs
» Research
» Personal Stories
» Supporting Someone Who’s in an Abusive Relationship
» Where to Get Help (UK)


12 thoughts on “Bullying & Abuse”

  1. Here I’ve been thought as immodest, which is FALSE, in recent years and I get treated like I invited these comments. Sometimes it has seemed to others that my behavior has seemed a bit inappropriate. I’ve done well in addressing that problem. It looks like I don’t have a single friend at all and the truth is I really do. I have had bouts of depression and loneliness and have had to seek support online.

  2. I’m finding that being a woman on the spectrum demands basic life skills. I was surprised I was treated nice at all at the disabled camp I went to in another state. it didn’t seem like I belonged there. Even as an adult I have dealt with resentment from some others thinking I should have my own life. I felt treated awful by my dad. He made fun of my mannerisms and my behavior over the years. I have felt hopeless that I can’t seem to find any friends at all. I wish I had more hope.

  3. I don’t feel at all hopeful that things will change. I still have gotten made fun of to this day. I just do what I like by myself. Went to a disabled camp for adults. was nitpicked and a roommate I had took a video without my permission and had the audacity to ask me for money. I was just someone to use. Sometimes I feel like what’s the use?

  4. I felt like I got some remarks on the job that had nothing to do with my job purposefully attacking my self esteem and self image. I feel kind of dead inside in a way. You find out very fast in this situation that you better protect yourself.

  5. I was bullied terrible in seventh grade and I would be in tears constantly and left and did homeschooling for a while. Then in adulthood, I was often made fun of for being upset even for mannerisms sometimes intimidated if I happened to be smiling off in space and sometimes purposefully laughed at to my face. Going to a ‘special’ camp as an adult in another state was no different. I was often nitpicked over my hair pretty much everything. Not only that, the roommate I had took a video of me without my permission and had the nerve to try to get money out of me and I gave her some till the counselor made me keep it. I wish I had better memories than this. I’m so sad that not much has changed for me to this day.

  6. I was abused as a youth because I was totally blank in regards to being able to effectively judge whether a person had my best interests at heart. As an adult, I have learned to perform analyses on people in order to make good judgements about whether or not to let them into my life, but as a young person I was virtually incapable of saying no, was desperate for acceptance to the point of allowing abuse, and was unable to perceive it when others wanted to harm me. Now, I continue to have a difficult time with this because I often imagine that people have ill will against me, only to learn later that they like me very much. Or I will totally miss it when someone is taking advantage of me. When I was 15, a 21 year old man repeatedly took sexual advantage of me, but because no one spoke to me or supported me in learning how to read the signs, I was vulnerable. I still have a hard time saying no, and I can not recognize it when people are mocking me or treating me unfairly.

  7. I was bullied quite a lot in school as well as at work as I did not communicate well with my peers or colleagues. Also there was jealousy due to popularity with teachers and managers who praised for my diligence, determination and cooperation. Sometimes when I think back believed I was to blame for all these problems and even agreed that the bullying was not wrong because there were comments that still become true to this day. Being criticised for not having a physical relationship even now I do get asked questions of my personal life. Recently I met a man from a training programme and we became friends but he even suspected that I did not have sex as he asked me questions about it. It wasn’t what he asked that upset me but because there is no respect that I can gain from anyone whether they know I am autistic or not. I told him that I could be a immoral woman and that I am odd, but he did not think both are true. The most heartbreaking thing is that our friendship ended before it developed into something long term because he seems to be a very nice person but sadly, our lives do not seem compatible. As I am typing this up, my eyes are welling up. I am already in middle age, childless and in poor general health so having to struggle in this ever changing world is a very complicated and confusing journey for me. But it’s comforting and a relief to know at long last I have something that explains what happened in the past makes sense now and that there are many of us can understand each other with the same condition.

  8. I’m so glad I found this site. I’m married to an abusive man (emotionally, verbally etc, has been violent in the distant past but now only threatens) and am finding it impossible to leave him, even though I know (and have been told by various professionals in domestic violence, Women’s Aid and police) that his ‘type’ rarely improves as his sense of entitlement is so deeply ingrained. The big question is why do I put up with it…I think I have my answer. I’ve always known I have aspergers tendencies but it has been assumed that I grew out of it, on the surface I know I look successful. But my husband constantly criticises me for not being social, not being loving enough towards him (he is a sexual bully as well), for not having an exciting enough job, etc, and after a year of (expensive) counselling I still haven’t left him. He knows that there is something ‘wrong’ with me and (rather than appreciate me for my good qualities) he constantly reminds me of how, for example, I don’t like talking on the phone (I can do but prefer written communication ie emails) and how therefore I’ll never progress in my career.

    His recent criticism of me was that I obviously ‘have autism’ …he’d read an article about someone with similar circumstances…he decided that I need to be ‘managed’, I did talk to the GP about this, she was helpful and said that because I had no trouble making eye contact I wasn’t autistic but I was clearly in an abusive relationship. I’m embarrassed now to go back and say I think my ‘doormat’ characteristics may be partly down to AS. But at the same time, I’m seeing the jigsaw pieces fitting. It’s not that I want to blame AS for my inability to leave, but it does help explain the situation, others including my solicitor, and counsellors, can’t believe I stay with him. It’s mainly a domestic abuse problem, not an AS problem, but just goes to show how it pervades all aspects!

    Thank you so much for these ‘bully’ pages. It’s often a hidden problem.

    • Hi,
      I am sorry that you are experiencing domestic abuse, however please know it is not your fault. The problem with having ASD and being female is that as females we are conditioned from an early age to behave passively and to that the lack of social skills and it becomes a recipe for low self esteem. It is good that you are self aware and know that the situation you are in is unacceptable and that you deserve better. There is no right or wrong approach to domestic violence, you can’t control the behaviour of others, but you can control your own. You can choose how you respond to people that behave in a way you dislike or is harmful to you. You will need to decide whether the character flaws in your husband outweigh his positive characteristics, or vice versa and how much of that you are willing to accept.

      Good luck

  9. I’m afraid to tell me family my father was so emotionally abuser. So I don’t know if it ptsd or asp.

  10. I have another story of abuse only it was sexual abuse. When I was very little (three or four) I had an uncle who would touch and fondle me any time he could catch me alone. When he did it I would just freeze. It was like if I didn’t acknowledge his presence then it wasn’t happening. I wanted to tell my Mother about it but was too ashamed. I couldn’t get the words started. I was way too withdrawn. My Mother hardly ever talked to me anyway. I think she had Aspergers too. One day my Aunt (his wife) caught him with me and I was crying. She asked why I was crying and he said I had hurt myself. She asked me if I had hurt myself and I shook my head yes because I was afraid of him. Eventually I think the women in the family caught on to what he was doing and him and my aunt moved far away. I also had two other uncles who molested me when I was small but not as bad as he did. I just wondered if many children with Aspergers have this problem growing up. It made my childhood a nightmare. The biggest problem was that I was so shy, bashful and withdrawn that I couldn’t tell on them. In later years when I was grown I did tell another aunt what had happened but never my Mother who is passed on now. Are Aspergers children, especially girls, more susceptible to sexual abuse?

  11. I lived with a man who beat on me the whole nine years of our marriage. We got married at 17 and 19 yrs. old and had four children. It was nine years of hell and more because even after the divorce he wouldn’t leave me alone. There’s too much to tell here. I just want to make a point. I thought it was all my fault. If I was prettier, smarter, more likable, more normal, he wouldn’t do it. I finally got the nerve to leave him (he always said he would kill me if I left) and started to live an almost normal life except I didn’t know I had Aspergers. Really, by comparison, it was heaven. I was in another abusive relationship after that but got out of it quickly. If you are in this position get out as fast as you can. You can deal with your Aspergers much better alone until you can find a supportive partner. I understand my marriage much better now that I know I have Aspergers and it was NOT my fault.

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