CW: Predatory behaviour
This is a post about trusting people. It is a really tricky area and I definitely do not have all the solutions! I am sharing a few of my thoughts on the topic and I hope they will be helpful.
A couple of weeks ago I went to the coast with a relatively new friend. We went to a fairly secluded beach that was only accessible via about twenty minutes on a dirt road. As we navigated the potholes and corrugations a thought crossed my mind… what if my friend was taking me to a quiet place to kill me? What if they left me in the bush and drove off? Would anyone find me or would I die alone in nature? Of course my friend didn’t kill me but it got me thinking about trust. When I was going to the beach I needed to trust my friend – not only their behaviour but their driving ability, their knowledge of the area and the level of organisation they had (e.g. that they would have enough petrol in the car!). In this instance trusting my friend was a good idea – we had a lovely time at the beach, didn’t run out of petrol and there was no murder or leaving Yennski at the side of the road! However for many autistic people trust can be a bit fo a double-edged sword.
Autistic people tend to very honest. This is a sort of default setting most of the time. We do not need to work at being honest – we simply are. Neurotypical communication is different. Often they say one thing and mean another. For autistics this can be very confusing and upsetting. I have had many conversations with my autistic mum who doesn’t understand this part of neurotypical communication and thinks they are being highly dishonest – not to mention rather baffling! I don’t think most people are always being deliberately dishonest but sometimes they are and this can be a huge issue when it comes to trust. Many autistic people assume that others are as honest and trustworthy as we are. The assumption is that everyone is honest and decent because we are and that is often the lens through which we view the world. The problem with this is that some people can take advantage of our trusting nature.
When I was younger I owed some rent to a housemate. For a variety of reasons that I won’t go into here, I gave this housemate my debit card and said she should take out the money I owed and then return the card. The next thing I knew this housemate had stolen all my money – $4000 – and moved to Queensland. I was horrified – and surprised! It had not occurred to me that she would take all my money. I spent years thinking she would apologise and pay me back. Instead she gave me a rather unlikely justification for why she had taken all my savings and I never heard from her again!
Sadly this kind of thing is not uncommon. One of the other autistic people who joined me as part of the documentary Alone in a Crowded Room said she was up to $500,000 in money owed to her which she would never see. It is almost like predatory people can see us coming! It is also very disappointing that this happens so often. Being trusting should be a positive quality rather than a reason to be taken advantage of.
Thoughts on addressing this include:
- There is a saying about preventing rape. The solution to preventing rape is simply don’t rape people! I think a similar approach is true for being taken advantage of in other ways. If you want to prevent people being taken advantage of then don’t take advantage of people! In other words the victim is not responsible for the predatory behaviour. This is the main solution but it requires change from others.
- Some strategies for addressing predatory behaviour for those on the receiving end include:
- Being aware that not everyone is trustworthy. I think a lot of autistic people do not always have this knowledge in mind and because we are generally decent then we don’t expect others to not be decent and it comes as a surprise when someone does the wrong thing.
- If you get a bad feeling about something someone asks you to do, take notice of this. It should be noted though that not everyone has this sort of ‘sixth sense’.
- Be wary of people offering a relationship very soon after meeting you. Also if your partner asks / tells you to do things you feel uncomfortable about they may well be taking advantage of you
- If someone gives you an offer that seems too good to be true, be very wary as it probably is!
- If someone does take advantage of you, don’t blame yourself. It is the result of their bad behaviour, not yours.
I should note after all that cautionary information, that trust can be extremely rewarding. It is a minority of people who will take advantage of us. Having friends and partners can be an amazing thing. I am so glad I trusted my friend and went to the beach because it was a lovely day. If I hadn’t trusted them I would definitely have missed out. So I guess the message is that trust can be a good thing but be wary of predators – it is not always a good idea to trust people. As I said, tricky!