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Sexual Assault and the Special Needs Person: Series with Dr. Lynette Louise

Author: Tsara Shelton
Author Contact: @TsaraShelton on Twitter
Published: 15th Apr 2021 - Updated: 6th Sep 2022
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Additional References: Disability and LGBT Sexuality Publications

Summary: Sexual Diversity conversations with Dr. Lynette Louise ("The Brain Broad") during Autism Acceptance month.

Main Document

April is both Autism Acceptance Month and Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. In this series of conversations with Dr. Lynette Louise topics range from sexual education and understanding to abuse prevention and healing.

Autism and Sexual Assault: These are two topics I have experience with and ideas about. I'm in the habit of writing on these topics all year round, and April is no exception. However, during April I'm more of a listener. Trending hashtags and stories, people feeling encouraged and safe, men and women recognizing themselves in others and sharing how that feels, or not recognizing themselves and sharing that loneliness, maybe even risking so much to be a brave newcomer offering a different perspective and story - these things are closer to the surface during an awareness month and I like to lose myself in it; surround myself by their experiences and beliefs rather than my own so that, when I find myself again, I am more.

I also do share during April, because I want to contribute my story and ideas as well, to play more than one role. But largely, I listen.

This April, Dr. Lynette Louise ("The Brain Broad") offered to share her experiences, knowledge, and stories with me on video - so while I listen, you can too. Not only is Lynette an international brain change and behaviour expert specializing in autism, but she is also the mother of eight now adult children, six were adopted and four had autism as well as other cognitive and social challenges. All of her adopted children had experienced abuse, including (for some) sexual abuse. With unstoppable energy and a willingness to think way outside the box, Lynette helped all of her children grow beyond expectations. It was a home of loud love and blunt language. I know because I was there. I'm Lynette's oldest.

Please take time to view the video. Mom and I are planning to talk together about Sexual Diversity once a week throughout April, creating videos that will add value and perspectives to the awareness discourse. Next week we will be discussing the particular vulnerability to assault disabled people face. If you have anything you want mom to discuss during this time, I hope you'll let us know! Or if you feel more comfortable keeping your questions private, you can always email her. (Contact info is available on her websites and ) Keep in mind that asking questions out loud allows others to learn along with you. So, if you are comfortable, consider it.

Learn and listen with me during this awareness month. Let's take what it teaches us into tomorrow and beyond.

Last weeks video:
Sexual Diversity: Autism

This weeks video:
Sexual Diversity: Sexual Assault and the Special Needs Person


Video Link:


Tsara 0:00
There we go. Hello again. Thank you so much for doing this with us mum. Okay, so today, Dr. Lynette Louise...

Dr. Lynette Louise ("The Brain Broad") 0:06
Dr. Lynette Louise, The Brain Broad.

Tsara 0:13
Also my mom, also mom of many, including my brothers with autism. Um, she is going to talk with us today about - because April is autism acceptance month, as well as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, it is the important, a little bit uncomfortable but important topic: to discuss how true it is that people who have autism and other social disabilities and cognitive functions are targeted for sexual assault.And then, of course, how often they can be perpetrators when they aren't taught. But it's really the fact that they're targeted that is more prevalent.

Well, and more what we want to focus on, if we can focus on that beginning place, maybe you don't have to worry about what you've trained into.

Ya, exactly what I was thinking and why it even came up. But exactly right.

Lynette 1:18
And it's also Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Oh right. So it's, like, so many things coming together.

Right? And really, they you know, so if we put it together if you can, if you can prevent the abuse, you won't have to have Sexual Assault Awareness. Perhaps we won't have that in that autism world, where we see something as a sensorily funky kind of sexuality. So - yeah, I think it's appropriate to talk about them being targeted as victims. And it's something that people are uncomfortable with. So if you're uncomfortable, take it in bits, but don't give it up. Don't refuse to learn. That's a problem in our society already. We're like, "Oh, I don't want to know, don't want to know," right. But that's how it happens. Because you don't want to know, and so you don't learn what the signs are. And let's start with the very first most ridiculous assumption, which is looking at anybody with any kind of challenge, whether it's someone who can't walk, someone with Muscular Dystrophy, can't control their muscles, or somebody who has autism, or somebody who has Down syndrome, or somebody else and on and on and on, looking at them and saying to yourself, well,

Lynette, cont 2:50
who would want it, thinking that nobody would want to have sex with them. I want to tell you, we are offended. But also you're blinding yourself from a really important truth. And you're committing an incongruent self crime that is common in humans. I'll explain that. You already know that there's porn for everything, probably. So you know that's not true.You already know that there have been people who have been found that have been, I'll give an example. There was a bunch of - and so horrible an example. But like I said, trigger warning. There were a bunch of people that were on social security because of their disabilities that were chained in a basement and being constantly abused. And I think there were five of them. And they were malnourished. They were horribly treated, and they were sexually assaulted as well as many other things. And their checks were taken. There are all kinds of motivators. Let's get down into, why do people assault? Is it about the sexy girl in a miniskirt? The handsome guy that works out at the gym? No. It's about a kind of self esteem problem. That says, and there's other reasons but let's get into this one really deeply. A self esteem problem that says, gosh, I don't want them to have an opinion. I don't want them to be able to compare me to someone else. I don't want them to feel like they can do without me. I don't want them to think that their wants are more important than my wants. It's that kind, I want it to be easy access. And I need a little bit of naughty thrown in, a little danger, to keep it exciting.

Lynette (cont) 5:24
Alright, so you've got this person who has very low self esteem and can't handle the jealousy or the, the comparison to someone else, or the need to step up, can't deal with the conversation, possibly. All of these things are going on for them, they feel ugly, they feel like they, whatever. Well, so now you're looking for your target. And that's where it becomes, Is it a child? is it a child who's disabled, so they really can't talk? So let's go all the way to that. In autism, for example, very often they're nonverbal. Well, that's a pretty big safety net, right? It's really hard to get the child to tell you about their abuse anyway. But if they can't talk it's really hard.

Tsara 6:17
Ya, even perfectly, cognitively healthy, it's still hard to do. So yeah.

It's interesting that there's a lot of the same behavioral signals though. So if you have somebody who's nonverbal and who's being molested, in a kind of a relationship way, not a straight up grabbed and raped and thrown to the side, because then then you're going to know it for different reasons. But let's say there's something insidious going on inside of with a caregiver, or whatever.There's still the stuff that that you hear about, like, they start urinating everywhere, for example. Or urine or defication issue start showing up. And that, you know, you might say, oh, they're disabled, this is happening. But if you, you know, it never happened before, but now they're at this age, I guess it's happening now. Or they're just being stupid, that's a common thing that people say. No. If your child was not like that, and they're suddenly doing it, don't let the label or the disability get in your way. Look at the change and say, I wonder what's happening? And then, you know, just ask yourself who's new in their life? Or who do I feel uncomfortable around myself when my child's there? Trust yourself. Trust that, because we're taught to go, Oh, I don't want to be judgmental. I don't want to think bad things about them. And besides, they're giving me a two hour break.

I was thinking that when you said caregiver.

Lynette 7:59
Right, so you know that you have to just really be willing to realize that there are people who want, and are sexually aroused, by every kind of human and animal. So you can't put those blinders on when you see your child and think, well, they're not sexually attractive. Regardless of their age.

I just also had just a thought for the first time, maybe it doesn't make sense. But also I think, maybe some people think, Well, my disabled child isn't as hurt by being abused, they're not normal. So maybe it doesn't even maybe it's not as big a deal for them. It doesn't hurt them in the same way. Like maybe you would think that, which is not true. It hurts them maybe in a different way, but it hurts them too.

Yeah, you know, that's a really I love that. You said that, actually.

I only just thought of it.

Lynette 8:53
Yeah, well, but you thought of something others thought of just now because that's a real thing. That's definitely a real thing. And it happens with all kinds of stuff. It happens with Well, it's okay that they're, you know, tied into their chair all day because they don't have a brain to think about it. It happens with all kinds of stuff. It doesn't just happen with sexual assault or abuse. And it also happens that they feel loved,that they feel paid attention to, that they feel like someone's caring for them, that they feel like they're getting a skill that might possibly open doors for them. And all of that's true.

That's actually true. I makes it so confusing.

Lynette 9:37
Right. And so very often, somebody who's abusive in this way, sexually different and attracted to somebody in this way, they, they are loving them. They're loving them in their way and they're responding to their feelings, but we live in the society we live in. And there is a kind of abuse that happens from a clash in societal norms, and in your norms, and the fear of getting caught, and then knowing that you're doing something that others wouldn't approve of.

Lynette (cont) 10:17
So it's assault when all of those elements are involved. Now, if you have an adult, who has a challenge of some kind, whether it's physical, emotional or mental, then now you're - you're having to get into, am I respecting who they are? Am I making sure that this will enable them into a future that is more accepting, not less accepting? Or am I putting them in the position where they're going to have to hide from the world because we're now doing bad things? And don't tell anyone.


And yeah, so all along the sort of continuum of growth, there is a type of assault and [conversely] a type of acceptable behavior, when the child is very young. If you're having to do catheters and help them to have a bowel movement by tickling the anus, like there's all kinds of,


Lynette 11:17
...yes, there's all kinds of difference. So let's get clear. Yes, you're special needs person is attractive to someone. And you want to have an eye to the difference between abuse and something negative, and a beautiful possibility of a sexual relationship, because now they're an adult, and they found someone who loves their difference. And it's important to know that both can exist in the world of challenges, disabilities, handicaps, challenges, so hard to know what's the right way to say,

Right, word you're comfortable with saying, insert that word here.

Lynette 12:48
But start by not doing that incongruent crime in yourself and looking at someone and going, well, it won't matter. It's just them. I love that you made that point. Or nobody would be attracted to them. And understand that there's always someone who would be attracted to them. And you want to make sure that you have helped your child grow into enough of an adult with strength and personal self esteem, so that when they create relationship, it isn't an abusive one. And that's hard, even in the normal world, guys. As if there's such a thing as normal, but yeah, that is a big challenge, no matter what. But it's still worth try.

It's worth it. That's what I was thinking. It's a beautiful way to live, though, to think that way. And hold on to that. Yeah.

Right. Right. And then with your mind on that, all kinds of opportunities come up. So let's say I'm doing a catheter on somebody, and I'm explaining so the difference, you know, between somebody helping you to urinate and somebody touching you because you have an erection, right. And so there's like this natural, in some ways, it's easier. Yeah. Oh, hello, Kitty - In some ways, it's easier because you can do that. You can, you can have this obvious intimacy and opportunity.

Tsara 13:35
Situations arise organically, you're right, actually, with all the boys, very often you were put in a position of, "Well, let's get comfortable and talk about this situation."

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, in many ways, it was easier because when you have a neurotypical teenage boy, he's going "mom, don't talk about that stuff."

No, exactly. No, honestly. That's why I thought I'm so glad you wanted to talk about this, because I watched you talk to the boys. So, just, candidly. And like, it was so comfortable. It helped me when I was raising - well, when we were raising - my boys. You know, like, just okay, be candid. And I think it's a big deal.

Lynette 14:20
Yeah. And I think that we've said enough for people who are sensitive to this that we don't want to keep going, right. And since your kitty cat came there, I think we should close today's little segment with you doing your cat dance from when you were in school.

Oh, I don't remember it.

[Tsara and Lynette both laughing]

Lynette 14:43
I am her mom. You know that thing that moms do right? Okay, now. Watch my kid perform.

Tsara 14:57
Everybody sit down and watch my kid be cute.

I love you.

Thanks, mom. Okay, until next week. Thanks again. All right bye.

* * *

Author Credentials:

Tsara Shelton, author of Spinning in Circles and Learning From Myself, is a contributing editor to

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• (APA): Tsara Shelton. (2021, April 15). Sexual Assault and the Special Needs Person: Series with Dr. Lynette Louise. Retrieved May 24, 2024 from

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