Making the perfect victim
One topic that keeps coming up on the autism discussion forums I belong to is how many of us have been victims over time.
We seem to have suffered more than average rates of crimes ( simple physical and or sexual assault, fraud, intimidation, manipulation for profit, use and abuse by those we believed were friends or even domestic partners, on and on).
One of the most asked questions is “how can I know when people are taking advantage of me, how do I figure out if what I am experiencing is abuse?”
What makes us so vulnerable to this sort of use and abuse?
I believe it is a number of factors.
One of the characteristics of autism is its “black and white thinking”. We take things literally and often do not see what is “behind” a statement or a behavior.
If we think we see a duck, we do not suspect it is really something else.
What we think we see is what we believe.
We tend to be anxious to find approval and friendship, and romantic love. ( Isn’t that human nature?)
But it seems we are not equipped to see (hidden motives) behind the face that is put on to gain our confidence.
We take things literally, so if my man friend tells me he loves me, do I even suspect he does not, but has more nefarious purposes? (gender used in this case is just an example and does not reflect that this can and does seem happen to all of us regardless of gender). Manipulative use can come from people we see as ‘friends’ , buddies from work or other situations asking for money, asking us to give them homes with us, help them do things, even directing and or pressuring us to do illegal things, either innocently, or knowingly.
I know one thing that made me very vulnerable was being taught to be compliant and obedient. This was the style of child rearing practiced in the 1950’s and 60’s. Kids were meant to be seen and not heard, they were to be polite and obedient to adults, neighbors, teachers, the minister, the folks in the stores and other public places. We were taught unquestioning response to adult demands.
I was punished over and over for asking why, although I was looking for clarification of intent or purpose and not questioning the actual commands that were given to me.
I was taught to sit still, to not speak unless spoken to, to be in all ways at all times a “nice little girl”, to be a “lady”, and society’s expectations for women to please men was role modeled for me.
I was taught to seek approval in everything I did, and to wait for directions, not to take my own initiative, and to in all things be subservient, looking for approval.
This ties in to lifelong struggles to appease any person I come in contact with. I must strive to please every person I meet. I learned this behavior as a very young child and it was the safest way to live in my world.
That approval was the only way I was able to keep myself safe, if I did not have approval and permission or direction from somebody else more powerful (and EVERYBODY was more powerful) then I did not proceed, for it was not safe to do so.
Thinking back, I realize I had learned these lessons and this behavior before I even entered school, and subsequent experiences throughout my childhood repeated and re-enforced the lessons.
I had learned not to be self assertive under any conditions, to wait for instruction , to seek approval. I was not allowed to get angry, and was punished severely for any angry or resentful behavior.
Combine that with my autistic lack of insight into human nature, lack of understanding of social and other interactions, lack of life experience and lack of explanation for any factors beyond ” Do it when I tell you to, and how I tell you to” … you can understand how I was ‘set up’ to fail. I was raised to be the perfect victim, and this is what I became.
Flash forward to today’s ABA , where kids are taught the exact same things to make them “socially acceptable” and “cure” their autistic behaviors.
They must endure adult pressure for extended periods of time, are taught to seek approval, act only when told to act and in the way that those adults choose, how and where they choose. This is performed for up to 40 hours a week usually before the child enters school.
ABA kids are taught to accept touch from those in power over them, uncomfortable, often sudden touch in the form of tickles, hugs, etc etc and taught to endure and act to please the controlling adult.
They are taught to do without protest the rote projects they are faced with performing.
ABA kids are taught to perform for approval or ‘rewards” such as a bite of a favorite food, much as dogs, or circus animals have been trained for years.
What will become of them when they are faced with demands from society, from classmates, from unreasonable bosses, co workers, high pressure sales persons, or demanding manipulative devious “user” adults who demand money, sex, or other unreasonable and unhealthy behaviors?
Will they have been taught to discriminate, or will they blindly try to appease those sorts for approval?
I can tell you which behavior I chose and used until a suicide attempt at age 30 sent me to therapy, where I learned how to become healthily self assertive.
I did not know there were alternatives to appeasement behavior. I had to be taught!
38 years later and I still struggle most days with appeasement behavior.
( for more information look up” freeze, flight, fight, fawn” patterns of behavior.)
See also “learned helplessness”
Are these early diagnosed children any better off than I was?
I can only hope that they eventually receive close attention to teaching about human interactions, how to spot people with devious intent, and are taught as soon as possible to become self assertive and to express their own personal boundaries and needs in a clear and healthy manner.
I greatly fear that in most cases this won’t happen.
There are so many autistic people in positions of being used and abused, we do not intuitively suspect others, it is something that needs to be taught, this self defensive questioning of other’s motives.
I have always said I had to have things explained that seem to be obvious to others.
Here above in this blog is a very good example of my spoken perception.
I wish somebody had taught me those things early on.