A new study has found that adults with autism are at a higher risk of sexual victimization, due to a lack of sex education.
“Adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) gain more of their sexual knowledge from external sources such as the Internet and the television, whereas social sources would include parents, teachers, and peers,” said Jonathan Weiss, Ph.D., in the Faculty of Health at York University in Toronto and the CIHR Chair in Autism Spectrum Disorders Treatment and Care Research.
The study, conducted by Weiss and psychology Ph.D. candidates Stephanie Brown-Lavoie and Michelle Viecili, found that the lack of sexual knowledge played a role in increasing the risk of sexual victimization in autistic adults, including experiences of sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact, attempted rape, or rape.
The researchers used an online survey involving 95 adults with ASD and 117 without ASD. Ages ranged from 19 to 43.
Of the 95 adults with ASD, 78 percent reported at least one occurrence of sexual victimization, compared to 47.4 percent of the adults without ASD, the researchers reported.
The study participants were asked about specific situations, not just a general “have you been sexually victimized” question, noted Brown-Lavoie.
“Some may not know that the experience they had is actually classified as sexual victimization,” she said. “But if you give them a specific situation, like someone touching you inappropriately after you said no, they may be more able to identify that it has happened to them.”
The researchers said they hope the study’s finding will lead to more programs aimed at sex education for individuals with disabilities. They have already taken their research to the community, where they held a workshop for 60 clinicians and another one for parents.
The study was published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
Source: York University