How My Autism and Surviving Sexual Abuse Intertwine
If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
For quite a while in my life, I thought sex was a painful and uncomfortable experience I would just have to get through instead of enjoying it. Part of my autism is that I don’t like to be touched or need to be touched in a certain way. That makes sex and even non-sexual contact complicated. I have very definitive moments where I need to be left alone. This didn’t always line up with how my ex-spouse wanted to treat me.
I used to have what I termed an “autistic” day. This was before I truly fell in love with my autism and realized that every day was an autistic day and that is something to be celebrated. But back then, it meant a day when I was unable to pretend to be neurotypical. I was burnt out or having a lot of trouble processing and being touched was the last thing I needed. Even something as small as being touched too lightly on my arm and I would have a panic attack. My ex-spouse refused to accept that as an excuse, however, and would tell me that I didn’t love them enough.
There were worse incidents. There were quite a few times where I was forced to have sex when I absolutely couldn’t handle it. But it was easier to get it over with than have to listen to my spouse guilt me and scream at me. And it meant I would be left alone, for at least a little bit. I truly didn’t realize that this behavior was sexual abuse. I was convinced that my autism was just such a barrier, such a detriment that I needed to compensate by doing things I didn’t want to do or face not having any human relationships at all.
I have since escaped that situation and now live in a very peaceful, non-abusive environment. I have made great strides in my physical relationships and a large part of that is because I now surround myself with people who don’t just view me as a sexual object and who respect my boundaries. I truly relish getting to tell someone that I don’t want to be touched, so much so that I will shout it out gleefully while stimming. There is a lot of healing I still need to do, though. While my brain is on board with my various partners touching me, my vessel sometimes struggles to get the message. I have times where my body decides it does not want to have sex, even if my brain does. This can pose problems, but I always make sure to verbalize what I want to be happening. Hopefully, with time and my loving and understanding partners, I will be able to enjoy sexual encounters in a way that works best for my autistic self.
Getty image by Kittiphan Teerawattanakul / EyeEm.