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Tough to Talk about: Sexual Assault and Exploitation as it impacts the Neurodiversity Community


April is Sexual Assault Awareness month and Autism Acceptance Month, so it’s a great time to share the Organization for Autism Research’s online sex-education module for autistic and neurodiverse people 15 and older. It’s a great way to launch a discussion about sexual assault and some of the ways it intersects with neurodiversity:

  1. Neurodiverse young adults have a variety of differences that can make them more vulnerable to sexual assault and exploitation: difficulty negotiating social cues, a strong desire to be accepted, and a propensity to be too trusting.

  2. Additionally, Neurodiverse young people tend to have had less education around sexual health and less exposure to the ins and outs of their peers’ “dating culture.” This leaves some young people vulnerable to sexual assault and exploitation, and on occasion, leaves them vulnerable to unknowingly violating sexual ethics.

  3. ND Teens and young adults are seemingly particularly at risk for unwanted sexual attention: ”70% of adults with ASC reported experiencing some form of sexual victimization after age 14 and into adulthood, compared to 45% of those without ASC.”

  4. It’s not just at college or out in the physical world where we need to train young people to be vigilant. Social media has opened up avenues for unintentional stalking, online exploitation through catfishing or bullying, and grooming that can reach your young person 24 hours a day.

  5. Neurodiverse survivors will need treatment/aftercare that takes their sensory and cognitive differences into account.


As with most things, prevention is preferable to treatment, and fortunately there are good options. It’s a great way to engage your young person in the discussion. Why not suggest the Organization for Autism Research’s online sex-education module for autistic and neurodiverse people 15 and older?


Want to know more? Though it is not exclusive to neurodiverse individuals, NPR produced a special investigative series “Abused and Betrayed” in 2018.


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