16 Days of Activism – Domestic violence against autistic people

Trigger warning: domestic violence

In Europe, one in every two women with a disability has been or will be the victim of domestic violence, two times more than the prevalence of domestic violence in non-disabled women. Domestic violence typically comprises abusive and coercive behaviour, such as physical, psychological, or sexual abuse, by an intimate partner. However, autistic people are also more vulnerable to suffering domestic violence by a carer, with family members, guardians or personal assistants sometimes being the abuser.

Besides the typical forms of domestic violence, autistic people have additional forms of domestic violence, such as neglect of disability-specific needs, under or overmedication, withholding mobility or communication equipment, isolation, and others.

The data on the prevalence of domestic violence and violence by a partner on autistic people is scarce. A recent study showed that autistic adults in a relationship were more than two times more likely to have been sexually, physically, financially, and emotionally abused or threatened by a partner than non-autistic adults in relationships (Griffiths et al, 2019).

A survey by one of our members, Associacao Portuguesa Voz do Autista, showed that 81% of the autistic women and non-binary people that answered the survey reported being at some point in their life in an abusive relationship.

With the disparity of diagnosis of Autism between men and women, the prevalence and needs of autistic women exposed to domestic and intimate partner violence are barely non-existent, especially when they also have autistic children themselves. We need more information and disaggregated data on gender and disability for domestic violence, to ensure autistic people escaping partner violence have access to support services and reporting services.


Griffiths SAllison CKenny RHolt RSmith PBaron-Cohen SThe vulnerability experiences quotient (VEQ): a study of vulnerability, mental health and life satisfaction in autistic adultsAutism Res. 2019;12:15161528https://doi.org/10.1002/aur.2162
See also: European Disability Forum (2021). Position paper on Violence against women and girls with disabilities in the European Union. Link