This is a guest post for our intersectional ace survivor story series by someone who wishes to remain anonymous. Please respect their privacy and do not speculate about their identity. This post focuses on being a disabled, non-binary, autistic, and ace survivor—and how that makes support resources inaccessible.
Trigger warnings: sexual assault, parental abuse, not being believed, dissociative disorder including dissociative amnesia, non-binary gender dysphoria, disability, autism, therapists trying to “fix” gender and sexuality, inability to access support due to these intersections
When I was 14, I thought I was normal. Now, come the age of 20, I know that I had PTSD by then, caused by parental abuse, as well as an autistic spectrum disorder, as well as both dyslexia and dyscalculia. The last three I’ve had all my life, but were not diagnosed until I left home. The PTSD, as far as the therapist and I can track, started somewhere around the age of 8, about the same time as a dissociative disorder also came about. See the parental abuse as to why these were late diagnoses
Aged 14 was when I also started my GCSEs — the last exams at the end of compulsory education. 2 years, then the only people still there are those who wanted to be. School leaving age was raised to 18 not long after.
14 was also when I first started questioning my sexuality. Specifically, my lack of attraction. My gender was also in question, and the two kinda rolled into a huge ball of confusion about sex — in both its forms. I still wonder how much my autism contributes to that confusion, but that’s not especially relevant to this.
These things all rather intersect at the same point, unfortunately. I know what week it fell in very clearly — 2 weeks before Valentine’s Day, my second to last year at that school. I had friends, I was clever, and I was one of the school prefects — things were going well, as far as anyone outside was concerned.
What I didn’t realise was that most people thought I had a boyfriend.
I genuinely had no idea people thought that — later I worked out it was because I had male friends and my autism, which I didn’t know I had, meant people understood my interactions differently to how I did. I just thought everyone was bluffing their way through everything, being too anxious about admitting things were hard.
When I was cornered in a deserted side-corridor one lunch-break, something happened. To be entirely honest, I don’t know what. I already had a dissociative disorder with an amnesia component — the details of the event itself didn’t stick in my mind. What I do know, though, is that one of my closest friends came looking for me to offer me some cake, and found me sobbing in one of the girl’s loos off that corridor. She says my shirt was off, but not my skirt, and I was somewhat hysterical. I also got into a lot of trouble because there were bite marks, matching my teeth, on one of my cis-male classmate’s hand.
We worked out that something sexual in nature had happened from the location of the bruises and scratch marks on my body.
My breasts have never felt clean since, and I often find myself clawing at them, trying to get some invisible presence away. Even now, six years later.
I tried to get help. Oh, god, did I try. But, everywhere I looked turned their faces away from me. Even as far as the staff at the school were aware, I’d been dating the boy with my teeth marks in his hand until I bit him, and that touching in the locations I was describing was perfectly normal for teenagers. I was horrified — I barely even considered the boy in question a friend. One of my classmates later revealed he had started saying he was dating me, and the way I treated him looked like we were much closer than we really were.
I’ve never been able to get help and support for the situation, partially because nobody believed me at the time. And, well, it’s sort of always been seen as a foot-note, given the parental abuse I also lived through. I mean, sex itself hadn’t happened (at least, I’m fairly certain it didn’t), so it obviously couldn’t affect me that much.
To be honest, the event itself was a lot less bad to remember than my treatment afterwards. This is almost entirely due to the fact I don’t remember the event, but I do remember the reactions. Everyone had always thought me a bit weird, now they accused me of lying for attention and trying to tarnish another student’s reputation.
I don’t know if my autism lead to the assault itself, but I am convinced it prevented me from getting help afterwards — and contributed to me being disbelieved on the matter. As for my sexuality… I was already questioning before then, so I probably wasn’t straight? Who knows other than that, though. I know my sex repulsion got an awful lot worse after the event. Not that it overly bothers me, bar when someone forgets to tag nsfw on tumblr, and the fact I can’t use tampons because anything even near that area makes me want to throw up.
The thing that I honestly am not sure of is how it interacts with my gender. I identify as non-binary, swaying towards masculine but firmly some of both. My physical disabilities, which developed years after the event, mean my presentation is inherently feminine — but that’s mostly because I can’t put trousers on without assistance.
That’s one way it interacts — what happened prevents me from being able to get assistance with dressing or bathing, due to the distress of being naked near other people. I need this help, because I am unable to physically do it for myself without causing injury, or my condition to deteriorate. As such, my hair is an absolute mess, and I have to present as female as the only clothing I can wear is dresses — all over the head. That in turn makes my dysphoria worse.
The other is also kinda subtle. I know my sex repulsion got a lot worse with the event. But, my dysphoria also did. I’m not sure to what extent it causes my gender — I know it stops me ever identifying as male, though. I also know it makes me hate my breasts more than I ever did before.
In terms of other support… Being non-binary makes things really hard. Almost all of the help for victims of sexual assault — and everything bar criminal prosecutions in my area — are gendered. I don’t identify as a woman, so going to somewhere advertised for women is a big no for me, but I don’t identify as a man either. The general mental health care professionals are fine with my asexuality at first — but as soon as I bring up what happened it becomes something to be cured. And, well, my physical disabilities mean I can’t actually get to things such as group support for victims, or even most of the places where counselling is offered. The only ones who will come to places I can get to to meet with me are those referenced above, who want to use the therapy to make me a normal, straight girl (in their words), not to help me live my life.
I don’t really have helpful advice, to be honest. But, well, there it is. I guess all I want to say is, please don’t assume that just because I don’t go to therapy doesn’t mean I don’t need it, or that my experiences are worth less, or affected me less? The way everything intersects prevents me from being able to do that. Also, please don’t assume that because I’m physically disabled nobody would have ever wanted to have done that to me — as I’ve been told before. Not only are you ignoring the fact disabilities can develop over time, you’re also undermining the experiences of many people who have been assaulted sexually. I’d quite like functionality in my legs back, and the amnesia gone, and to be able to understand words and numbers properly. But, my gender and my sexuality — I don’t want them fixed. Stop trying. Just because they might have been influenced by a traumatic experience — and even I don’t know if they were or weren’t — doesn’t make them any less real, or any less an inherent part of who I am.