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How My Autism and Surviving Sexual Abuse Intertwine

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Editor's Note

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.

Originally published: January 18, 2022
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