Four out of every 5 people with autism in Merseyside are victims of ‘mate’ crime, according to a survey conducted by charity Autism Together.
The survey found the most vulnerable age group to be 16-25, with all those surveyed in that group having some difficulty distinguishing between genuine friends and those who may bully or abuse the friendship in some way.
Mate crime is a hidden form of disability hate crime, where vulnerable people including those with autism are bullied or manipulated by people they consider to be friends.
Of the respondents who reported experiencing mate crime, 71% across all age groups had been subject to name calling and verbal abuse. Meanwhile, 8 out of 10 said that fear of bullying had caused them to turn down social opportunities.
In the 25 plus age group, 74% reported that they had been manipulated or forced to do the wrong thing and over a third of adults with autism (or their carers) who responded to the survey had been subject to bullying or manipulation of a sexual nature – including being coerced into ‘sexting’.
Robin Bush, CEO of Autism Together, said: “Mate crime is morally reprehensible and these people are cowards. People with autism struggle enough with the complexities of daily life without having to live in fear that people who pretend to be their friends will actually steal from them, assault them or encourage them to commit crimes on their behalf.
“I hope all stakeholders will look closely at the findings from our survey and work collaboratively to educate and eliminate hate crime from our communities.”
Autism Together has used the findings to launch a new campaign ‘Together against mate crime’. As part of the campaign, the charity is encouraging people to: – Ask someone to take a picture of you holding a sign which says ‘Together against mate crime’ and includes the Twitter username @autism_together – Post your photograph on your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts and include the username @autism_together.
Merseyside Police, Tranmere Rovers Football Club (pictured) and the Light Cinema in New Brighton, are just three organisations to have pledged their support and posted their pictures online.
Steve Vasey, head of the charity’s Rainbow Resource Centre for children and families in Birkenhead, added: “My professional response to this is that we probably focus too much on working out strategies to help and support people academically and with employment skills – it means we’re failing to recognise the extent to which they need social and emotional support.”
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