16 Days of Activism – Sexual and physical violence against autistic people

Trigger warning: sexual and physical violence

Disabled people are at significantly higher risk of experiencing several types of violence, including sexual and physical abuse, than people without disabilities (Krnjacki et al., 2016). Disaggregated data on violence in different disabilities is still limited, but it does show differences, with intellectual disabilities, for example, experiencing higher rates of violence (Fisher et al., 2016).

Studies focusing on autistic adults’ experiences, found high rates of several types of violence:

Considering gender-based violence and focusing on autistic women:

In general population, there are typical gender differences in the patterns of violence, such as more men reporting physical violence and more women reporting sexual violence, but studies shown that with autistic people, those differences are narrower, with higher rates of sexual violence reported by autistic men than non-autistic men, and more physical violence reported by autistic women than non-autistic women.

There is a lack of research to assess gender differences, including for gender non-conforming people such as trans and non-binary people, even though they have been found to have elevated rates of sexual victimisation, harassment and stalking compared to cisgender people (Newcomb et al., 2020). However, a study showed that gender non-confirming autistic adults were more likely to report experiencing each types of violence, with 86% experiencing more than one type of violence and 93% reporting repeated instances of at least one form of violence. (Gibbs et al, 2022).



Krnjacki, L., Emerson, E., Llewellyn, G., & Kavanagh, A. M. (2016). Prevalence and risk of violence against people with and without disabilities: findings from an Australian population-based study. Australian and New Zealand journal of public health40(1), 16–21. https://doi.org/10.1111/1753-6405.12498
Fisher, M., Baird, J., Currey, A. & Hodapp, R. (2016) Victimisation and Social Vulnerability of Adults with Intellectual Disability: A Review of Research Extending beyond Wilson and Brewer, Australian Psychologist, 51:2, 114-127, DOI: 10.1111/ap.12180
Gibbs, V., Hudson, J. & Pellicano, E. The Extent and Nature of Autistic People’s Violence Experiences During Adulthood: A Cross-sectional Study of Victimisation. J Autism Dev Disord (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-022-05647-3
Cazalis F, Reyes E, Leduc S and Gourion D (2022) Evidence That Nine Autistic Women Out of Ten Have Been Victims of Sexual Violence. Front. Behav. Neurosci. 16:852203. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2022.852203
Newcomb, M. E., Hill, R., Buehler, K., Ryan, D. T., Whitton, S. W., & Mustanski, B. (2020). High burden of mental health problems, substance use, violence, and related psychosocial factors in transgender, non-binary, and gender diverse youth and young adults. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 49(2), 645–659. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-01533-9