9 out of 10 autistic women say they have experienced sexual violence, often multiple times and before the age of 15. A new French study denounces this systemic violence, hoping to help improve prevention and dedicated treatment.
One in three women is a victim of sexual violence. This figure jumps to nine out of ten in autism cases, three times more. Violence perpetrated, for the most part, on multiple occasions and which begins particularly young, reports a French study (linked below, in English) published in the scientific journal Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience on April 26, 2022 “. This investigation shows, once again, that the accumulation of vulnerability is an important factor that the attacker is able to grasp “, explains Marie Rabatel, president of the Francophone Association of Autistic Women (AFFA), who is pleased that this serious social problem makes” finally »The subject of an important study. ” We’ve been talking about this number for years but it never seemed to bother anyone … “, He complains. A necessary spotlight to improve general awareness of sexual violence and, ultimately, dedicated prevention and treatment.
Difficulty of interpretation
” We are in a blindfolded society! “, Denounces Marie Rabatel, also a victim of rape. So 225 autistic women answered an online questionnaire to try to open their eyes … ” When we started the study, there was still little research on this specific topic, which was nevertheless much discussed within the autistic community.says its co-author, Dr Fabienne Cazalis, of the social sciences department of the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS-EHESS). It was this community that drew our attention to the importance of studying it. The specificity of this study? Two methods of identification, through an open question then specific questions. While 68.9% of the participants identify the sexual violence they suffered, in reality 88.4% were victims. This discrepancy reveals in particular the inability of this audience to interpret certain gestures and requires greater awareness. However, the researchers wish to highlight the fact that autism, and disability more generally, ” it’s just a vulnerability factor “And not the” principal responsible of the violence suffered.
Young people, another risk factor? In fact, out of 199 victims, 135 were 18 or younger and 112 were 15 or younger at the time of the first attack, increasing the risk of developing post-traumatic stress. Only a third of them reported it. Of these, 25% were able to file a complaint and / or receive treatment. For the remaining 75%, nada “; the report did not lead to legal action or therapeutic follow-ups. Six months after the attack, the people interviewed reported mainly sleep disturbances, a ” disgust for sex », Self-mutilation, weight gain, excessive consumption of drugs and / or alcohol, even reaching suicide attempts. Symptoms that can have a significant impact on their health, on the one hand, but also on the construction of their identity as a woman.
Large-scale prevention programs
To prevent these abuses, some authors propose ” educate potential victims to give them the keys to better protect themselves. “In light of our findings, we found this proposal to be inapplicable, particularly because more than half of the victims were below or at the age of consent,” or 15 years, in France, the study authors analyze. They therefore prefer large-scale prevention programs “, proposed in particular by the World Health Organization and the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which aim to initiate profound cultural changes, such as the reduction of systemic sexual violence and inequalities between the sexes, which they identify as” the very root of sexual violence “.
” The longer the company remains silent, the more it encourages abusers to continue these despicable acts. It is urgent to know how to identify the psychotraumatic consequences, beyond the diagnosis of autism “, Concludes Marie Rabatel, challenging public authorities, institutions and the” entire society “.” Life depends on it! “, He warns.
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