Are Individuals with ASD (and other disabilities) at Increased Risk for Sexual Abuse?

It is difficult to determine the exact risk of sexual abuse for individuals with ASD.  For one thing, reports of sexual abuse in the general population can vary widely.   The first national survey reports victimization rates of 27% for women and 16% of men (Finkelhor et al., 1990)*- and many studies seem to report findings similar to this.  A study has shown that children with disabilities are 1.7 times more likely to experience sexual abuse (Crosse, Kaye & Ratnofsky, 1993)*. In this study all children with disabilities were examined, not just individuals with ASD . Individuals who are caregiver dependent may be at the highest risk as family members, family acquaintances, and paid caregivers are the most likely to commit sexual abuse (Mansell et al., 1996)*. Difficulties communicating, lack of knowledge of sexual norms and activities, and isolation may contribute to increased risk of sexual abuse among individuals with ASD.

So what can you so?  Here are 5 places to start.

  1. Have a clear reporting procedure of any suspected incidences of abuse or neglect and  use it!
  2. Don’t hug, kiss, hold hands, snuggle or in other ways compromise professional boundaries.  Not only does this potentially mask dangerous “grooming” by sexual predators, it also communicates that individuals with disabilities are asexual.
  3. Sexuality education 🙂 may provide opportunities to for individuals to be better able to communicate and better understand social norms and activities thus giving them tools to better understand if abuse may be taking place.
  4. Teach folks to say no!  When we don’t provide structured opportunities for people to say no, then when they need to they don’t know how.
  5. Don’t let sex be a taboo.  If everyone is afraid to talk about it, they will be afraid when there is a problem also.  Also, perpetrators will be deterred by the open communication.

The Department of Human Services in Illinois is targeting ending violence against women with disabilities.  Click here to learn more!

*Link takes you to an abstract of the original article.

Online Dating Websites

Online dating has become popular in the community, and we’re here to share some good dating websites with our readers!

**Please note that for all of these websites, you must be 18+ to use**

Spectrum Singles: This dating website is exclusively for people who are on the autism spectrum. This website goes past the two-gender (male/female) belief and offers many gender identities for its users to use to identify themselves, such as transgender, androgyne, agender, intersex, and genderfluid. There is also the option to search for others using these options. Spectrum Singles is not just for people looking for dating, but also friendship.

Whispers4U: This dating site has been around since 2002, and is designed to help “differently abled individuals” find love! This website offers video tutorials, virtual flirting, webcam chatting, 24/7 support, and many other features! On top of this, the site doesn’t discriminate based on ability. Everyone is allowed to join this site to find relationships and friendships. This site constantly checks for scammers, and is a top rated disabled dating site!

Special Bridge: This is a family owned dating site that allows users to build relationships, friendships, and find pen pals! They mostly focus on match-making. It’s users can take a match-making quiz that connects them with other users across the country. They also offer support forums, run background checks on users (to ensure they’re real people!), is monitored for inappropriate behavior, and is an overall safe choice.

Disabled Passions: This site is a good mix between social networking and dating. This site consists of a lot of forums that are organized by interests. Users can go onto the forums and find other people that they identify with. The site also uses math-making services and offers many options for virtual flirting and chatting.

For even more sites, check out this article: Best Disabled Dating Sites

Parent Tip Sheets

Navigating developmental stages, education, and sex education can be extremely difficult. The Birds & The Bees team put together a parent tip sheet that offers basic information and resources for parents of autistic children. View the tip sheets in the slide show and download below.

  • In Script, a title reads "The Birds and The Bees Tips for families Series" The first picture shows two babies happily sitting on the floor, looking up towards the sky. The second pictures shows two laughing children playing with fidget spinners. The next picture shows an young African American girl smiling. The following picture shows a young couple, each holding a dog.

Sex Ed for Self-Advocates

The Organization for Autism Research (OAR) was founded by parents and grandparents. OAR strives to use science to address social, educational, and treatment concerns in the Autism community. Their mission is to fund research, provide useful information and resources to the community, as well as hold programs to improve quality of life for individuals with Autism.

The OAR has put together an online guide for sexuality and sex ed. This guide is self-paced and intended for people on the Autism Spectrum aged 15 and older. This guide consists of nine modules: Public vs Private, Puberty, Healthy Relationships, Consent, Dating 101, Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity, Am I Ready?, Sexual Activity, Online Relationships and Safety. Each module consists of a video overview and 10-15 smaller sections.

This guide is completely free and can be accessed at the link below:

Inclusive Sex Education on Instagram: “Sex.ed.agram”

The sex ed instagram project is an inclusive project started in Fall 2020 to create resources for all groups of people about sexuality! The information we post is co-created in small groups containing individuals with and without disabilities. We ask important questions, become informed ourselves, and post the information for others to access. Our team commits 2+ hours a week to make and review posts, learn more about how to use different forms of social media, and become a good sex educator. The project allows for individuals to personally expand their understanding of sexuality and sexual health, have a creative outlet, and build their research experience. The project offers a safe, educational, and fun environment for all types of individuals. Our team continues to grow and work to produce information in a co-created and inclusive way. Check out our instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/sex.ed.agram/

More Info. Less Weird. AMAZE Takes the Awkward Out of Sex Ed

These days, it is hard to find an age appropriate content about sex, dating and abuse. Children have questions about their bodies, gender and reproduction. Teenagers worry if their bodies are developing normally or not while older adolescents struggle with peer pressure, changing relationships and emerging sexual feelings. AMAZE is an amazing website for parents and educators which helps them to expose their child to age appropriate content about sex through short videos. The website provides an insight to young people to successfully understand puberty, healthy body image, distinguish between healthy and unhealthy relationships, concepts of consent and mutual respect. Video topics are designed to meet the learning objectives outlined in the National Sexuality Education Standards.

Parents are the primary sexual educators of their children. By answering children’s questions, a parent let them know that you are “askable” and establishes an open line of communication that will serve you and your children well as they mature into sexually healthy young adults.

AMAZE also has resources for younger children like the parents’ playlist from amaze jr. It is designed to help parents become comfortable and confident talking to their children openly and honestly at any age.

https://amaze.org/

There are some videos for parents reference.

This video will help parents to know when to talk about sexuality with their kids.

Do you think so playing “doctor – doctor” is safe or not? Check this video out which helps you to communicate your thinking and others about this game.

This video will model to the adolescents with disabilities to learn about manage their relationships with person they like or have attractions. This video guide them to deal with peer pressure and make healthy relationship.

This video helps your child to understand their body parts, difference between a male and female, and similarities between boy and girl.

https://youtu.be/wW627gpkWbw

Anatomical Puzzles for Children

Both Hape and Melissa & Doug have made anatomically correct body puzzles.

Hape sells boy and girl puzzles separately for around $20.00 each.  The children are pre-pubescent and European American.  The video below shows a child completing the puzzle. The toys are distributed by Hape but are actually made by a company called Beleduc out of Holland. Beleduc also has a great pregnant mother puzzle that is a little difficult to find.

Melissa & Doug make a magnetic human body play set that includes children of both genders for about 13.00.  The children are early adolescents and European American.

Healthy Realationships and Autism

healthy relationships and autismA new curriculum called “Healthy Relationships and Autism” is now available from Wesley Spectrum (a behavioral health organization with several locations in the Pittsburgh, PA area). It was designed to teach skills to adolescents and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder or cognitive challenges in the areas of self care, sexuality, and relationship development.  Their website has an example lesson to help you determine if it would be right for your students.  They do not publish their pricing information (you have to email them for more information but they will send you a sample packet).

I have not used this curriculum but there is some evidence of it’s effectiveness.  A study published in School and Educational Psychology evaluated this program with six students.  These students showed increases in sexual knowledge which they retained one month after completing the class.