Mate Crime: More Children and Adults with Autism at Risk of Being Bullied by So-Called “Friends”

autism mate crime

New research shows that children and young adults on the autism spectrum are being bullied, abused, and even robbed by people they think are their friends. An autism charity found that a disturbingly high amount of people with autism are subject to “mate crime,” a form of disability hate crime in which a person is exploited or abused by people they believe to be their friends.

Based off of an online survey conducted by a British autism charity, the report uncovered heartbreaking stories of abuse––including a 17 year old girl whose iPod and phone were stolen by her classmates at school. She also had a boyfriend who exploited her disability living allowance (i.e. Disability benefits provided by the government). A young man was tricked into giving up his debit card and PIN to a so-called friend, who used it to pay his bills.

Unforutunately, these two stories are just a fraction of what has become a widespread phenomenon. Out of the 150 people that participated in the survey, 80 per cent of the respondents over the age of 16 had been bullied or taken advantage of by someone they considered a friend.

The most vulnerable age group was 16-25. All respondents in that group reported having difficulties distinguishing genuine friends from people who might be potential abusers or manipulators. Eight out of 10 said that they have turned down valuable social opportunities due to fear of bullying.

It was also found that 71 per cent of autistic people from all age groups who had been victims of mate crime were subject to verbal abuse. More than half of all 12-16 year-olds had had money or possessions stolen. Nearly three quarters of people over 25 reported being manipulated by their “friends.”

Some adults with autism even experienced sexual abuse. Over a third of adult participants were subjected to bullying and manipulation of a sexual nature––including being coerced into sexting.

“Mate crime is morally reprehensible and these people are cowards. People with autism struggle enough with the complexities of daily life without having to live in fear that people who pretend to be their friends will steal from them, assault them or encourage them to commit crimes on their behalf,” said Robin Bush, the CEO of Wirral Autistic Society.

The report concluded that people with autism were often unaware that they were in an abusive friendship. Parents and caregivers were the ones who recognized the problem but did not know who to turn to for help.

You can read more here.

By Nina Bergold

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