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Don Burke Denies Sexual Assault Allegations, Says He Has Asperger's

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People in the autism community are voicing their concern after Australian TV producer and presenter Don Burke told “A Current Affair” on Monday, that he’s diagnosed himself with Asperger’s syndrome. Burke then used his self-diagnosis to explain inappropriate behavior after multiple women accused him of sexual assault and harassment.

Although Burke denies the allegations against him, people in the autism community are upset that he would tie his actions to an autism diagnosis. People on the autism spectrum took to Twitter to express their anger toward Burke’s comments about Asperger’s.

Burke’s comments came after Tracy Grimshaw, host of “A Current Affair,” asked him if he had ever made a sexual comment about a young relative. A producer told Grimshaw that Burke said he was a geneticist and if he reproduced with the younger relative, the baby would have the perfect gene pool.

In response to this, Burke said that was inaccurate because he is “an Asperger’s person” and has “a lot of other failings that are genetic.”

After mentioning the autism diagnosis, Burke said in the interview that he has a hard time looking people in the eyes and that he misses body language and social cues.

“I miss the subtle signs that people give to you like, ‘back off, that’s enough.’ I don’t see that. I suffer from a terrible problem with that— of not seeing.”

This is the first time Burke has ever mentioned being on the autism spectrum, adding that he has never received a medical diagnosis.

The head of Autism Awareness Australia, Nicole Rogerson, was “appalled” that Burke would blame autism for his actions.

“The only reason I can think of [for Burke’s Asperger’s justification] is he is trying to use the idea that people with Asperger’s sometimes don’t read social cues very well,” Rogerson told The Sydney Morning Herald.

Frank Pangallo, a father of a son with Asperger’s, called for people to stop using autism as an insult or excuse for bad behavior.

“It smacks of someone looking for an excuse in a misguided attempt to divert attention from his own admission of appalling behavior. Behavior acknowledged by no fewer than three of his former bosses at the Nine Network,” Pangallo said in an opinion piece for Australia’s ABC.

Several small studies have shown that people on the autism spectrum — especially women and children — are more likely to be victims of sexual assault. Another study, from UK group Dimensions, found that people on the spectrum are more likely to be victims of disability-related hate crimes.

Photo via Twitter

Originally published: November 29, 2017
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