NPFP Guest Post: Surviving Abuse with Disabilities

Welcome to RMB’s Naked Pictures of Faceless People, a series of guest posts from diverse anonymous bloggers. (Read more about NPFP’s origins.) These are the posts that are jumping to get out of us, but for whatever reason — safety, embarrassment, conflict of interest, protection of loved ones’ reputations or feelings, or so on — we don’t or won’t or can’t post at our own blogs. Anyone, whether blogger or reader only, is welcome to submit or discuss a potential post by emailing me at arwyn at raisingmyboychick dot com.

Trigger Warning: There is a trigger warning on this post for references to child abuse and violence against people with disabilities.

Surviving Abuse with Disabilities

I am an abuse survivor, although I don’t like to use the word “abuse”. I was physically and emotionally hurt by my parents. I am also disabled. Autistic, among other things. These two things may not seem like they have anything to do with each other, but they do.

First of all, people with disabilities are more commonly victimized to abuse than the general population. This may be for several reasons that I do not understand, but it is true. Secondly, disabled people may be less likely to report abuse, for example because they do not have the skills to communicate what happened to them. These are both points that warrant attention, but this is not what I’m going to write about now.

What I’ll write about is when abuse is excused by a person’s disability. My parents beat me on quite a regular basis, and more often said that I was worthless and that they were only parenting me because no foster home would want me. These actions would’ve been considered abusive if they happened to a person without disabilities, but in my case, almost everyone — even my therapist — contends that my autism is the root cause of it all.

You see, I had behavior problems as a child and young adult. I had frequent meltdowns in which I would scream and yell and sometimes, as a child, act physically aggressively towards my parents. Even though no one says that this excuses the actions my parents committed, people often do say that it is my autism that is the main problem, and that, if my parents had sought help for my autism — which they didn’t, since they were in denial –, nothing would have happened.

Even in abuse survivor communities I sometimes hear talk as if my disability is at fault instead of my parents having to take responsibility for their actions. Once, I wrote to a support group about being triggered by an article that revealed that children with behavioral conditions are more likely to be victimized to abuse, and I was informed repeatedly by a fellow member that people needed to protect themselves and others from the hurt done by children with behavior problems. This gave me the idea that my disability was truly at fault for the abuse. When someone stuck up for me and said the other member’s words were inappropriate and that abuse by parents is never the child’s fault, this person was reprimanded by the group owner.

I have internalized a lot of the logic that says that disability makes abuse understandable. Survivor guilt is the result, but a more complicated kind of survivor guilt than that experienced by most survivors of trauma and abuse. “It was not your fault,” simply doesn’t make sense when people go on to blame an integral part of who I am.

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11 Responses to NPFP Guest Post: Surviving Abuse with Disabilities

  1. NO CHILD is to blame for its abuse. It is the parents that are unable to work through their own emotions.
    Wether you are autistic, defiant, deaf, loud… it is not your fault.

    We live in this sick fucking society, where it is easier to blame the victims, the survivors than the perpetrators, certainly when it comes to parental or domestic abuse, because it is to horrible to imagine, there must be a reason for it.
    If there needs to be blame, blame it on society for not handing parents the tools to deal with their own anger.

    Big big hugs to you.

    As a child of abusive parents, I relate to you, especially now as I am going through a very rough spot of repetition with my daughter (from my parent’s side)

  2. The parents are always responsible for any abuse they inflict on their children. There is no exception to this. Disability of ANY kind never makes abuse acceptable.

    I am horrified that anyone, especially a support group, would make you feel otherwise because of autism. It doesn’t make any sense to me and it shouldn’t make sense to anyone else, let alone a survivor.

  3. I am so sad for you, that you were victimized twice. :(

  4. I feel for you. As an Autism Spectrum Disorder person who has suffered physical abuse, it is horrible that the abuse is blamed on us. Child abuse itself is terrible, and labelling it “punishment” makes it no better. But blaming it on the disability? That just makes me sick.

  5. I’m so sorry. I work in a group home supporting adults with autism, many of whom were abused as children or adults before they came to us, and no matter what they do I can’t imagine it justifying that kind of treatment. I have been bitten, pinched, punched, spit on, kicked, peed on, vomited on, slapped, and yanked to the ground by my hair…but that would never make it okay to do it back.

  6. I am so sorry that you have to continue living with this.

  7. I’m in a related position in which I was assaulted in a psychiatric hospital setting, and am now having to “prove” that it happened in litigation (because obviously the perceptions of mentally ill patients are suspect, right?), so I definitely feel you. And the fact that your “support” group devalued your experience is doubly horrid. I’m so, so sorry.

  8. I’m late to read the comments, but thanks very much to everyone who commented. I’m so thankful for all your sympathy and support and the validation that the abuse was not my fault.

    To the person who suffered abuse in a psych hospital, I can unfortunately relate. I was emotionally hurt by staff in a psych hospital, and at another ward, was kicked and hit by fellow patients, and at first had it blamed on my own behavior that presumably elicited it. This pretty much retraumatized me. I’m sorry you had to go through this.

  9. I have Asperger’s and was sent away to boarding school at age 12, supposedly because no school would have me (like it isn’t their job). I had what’s known in the UK as a “statement” of special needs, but kids didn’t get diagnosed with Asperger’s — it was just put down to “behaviour problems”.

    Last year I got into an argument with some of the “old boys” after I asked about an old teacher of ours who went down with ME (known as CFS or CFIDS in the USA) after a very upsetting story was in the news about a woman who had been bedridden with it for 17 years, since age 14 (Lynn Gilderdale — trigger warning). In response to that I got a volley of abuse, mostly centred on my religion.

    I told my family about this and they told me I shouldn’t have been bothering talking to them, that they were horrible people, and so on. The thing is that I told them that 20 years ago, and they blamed my failure to “get on with them” on my not trying hard enough or provoking them, rather than them just being vicious people. This is par for the course, it seems — nowadays the boys (and the teachers) are/were bastards, but back then (when I needed their help but it would have been somewhat inconvenient) it was my fault.

  10. Thank you for sharing this. I appreciate the courage it took to write these words.
    And thank you for this series. So much.

  11. You know i have a child with disabilities, let me say that she brings the sunshine to my day!!!! Now i recently learned that after spending the night with what i thought was my bestfriend, that my daughter had, excuse my language lived though hell so to speak. I was called early in the morning to come pick my daughter up because as i was told she was having a “behavior”. i was told that she had bit one of her daughters and needed to leave. Now what i wasnt told threw me for a loop. the girls had picked at my daughter until she was angry..and hit one of her tormentors…at this point the parent grabbed my daughter and held her down so the two girls could hit her….the parent bit my daughters fingers, and then locked her in the bathroom till i got there. I filed charges and even though the parent admitted to cops that she had indeed bit my daughter, the prosecuting attorney says that hes not pressing charges cause of lack of evidence. my daughter is 6 and was in what i thought was a safe haven. dont know how to protect my child when the law sure wont.

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