Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Are Autistic People More Likely to Be Labeled a Sex Offender? A Question I Have Had for the Last 3 Years and Now There is an Article by Eustacia Cutler on the Autistic Connection to Child Pornography

For the last few years I’ve wondered how many autistic Registered Sex Offenders (RSO) there are in Virginia.  

I’ve heard from quite a few parents of young men and a few females who were required to register for life as a Violent Sex Offender in Virginia all with Asperger’s Syndrome with the story of how their condition resulted in a conviction and what the life long stigma has created for not only the young person but the entire family. I have also wondered for some time now how many RSO’s depend on another person to drive them to their mandated re-registrations, how many have a form of dementia and could easily forget about their re-registration deadline and how many are so frail or disabled that they never leave their home or facility and depend on a VSP Trooper/Compliance Officer to come to them.    

In 2011 I submitted a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request to the Virginia State Police asking if they keep track of RSO’s with special needs including autism (especially Asperger’s), or of those who are physically disabled, bed-ridden or have Alzheimer’s. And if so could they break the numbers into these categories and advise me of the totals.  

My FOIA request for this information was denied (as expected), so I still do not know the numbers.   

They even denied my request for the number of RSO’s aged 50-59, 60-69, 70-79 and 80-89 which is data they definitely have access to.  

Then in 2012 at a Virginia Domestic Violence Prevention and Response Advisory Board meeting in Richmond, VA  during the public comment portion I raised my concerns about a high number of young autistic Virginians who are curious about sexual situations and then unfortunately end up convicted, facing many years in prison and are labeled as Sexual Offenders for life. Two of the Board members seemed very concerned about this and asked me if I had any numbers and I had to tell them that I did not because the VSP doesn’t keep track of that information even though the VSP sees every RSO in the state 1-4 times each year.  

So I’ve searched for
studies and reports on the issue over the last few years and found a few but not that many. 

This week I found a new article on the connection of autism and child pornography that I feel everyone should read (see below).  

Maybe someday soon the Virginia State Police who are responsible for managing and maintaining all RSO information will start tracking the data I requested back in 2011 so that the state can do a better job at understanding disabilities that influence illegal behaviors and how to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Tracking these details would also tell us how many of our current registered citizens cannot on their own actually fulfill the legal mandates of the registry due to their physical and or mental capacity. This would be very helpful when new and harsher laws are being proposed and debated during the yearly G.A. sessions. 

If you agree that this data collection is needed here in Virginia to improve our system of educating, charging and managing citizens we label “sex offender”, please
email or call your one State Delegate and your one State Senator today!

A few additional check-boxes to the VSP re-registration form in 2014 is all it would take. 

Mary D. Devoy

Autism and Child Pornography: A Toxic Combination, by Eustacia Cutler  August 5, 2013

It’s a disturbing trend we cannot ignore. Eustacia Cutler, mother of autism advocate Temple Grandin, on why autistic men are viewing child pornography—and being labeled sex offenders.

While in the throes of compiling a history of the social impact of autism, I came upon a story that I wish weren’t true. 

A young male adult with autism took his computer in for repairs. The repair shop found child pornography on his hard drive and turned him in to the police. In court he was adjudicated a “predator”—a legal label he will wear for life. A label that will bar him from any job that involves children, and from any “assisted living” home for an adult such as himself.  

When child pornography hits the law, the law is not friendly, no matter the circumstances—nor the understandable dysfunction of the perpetrator. One psychologist described to me her court experience with an adult autistic male. The judge pointed at her and said: “You should be dealing with this before I have to deal with it.” 

One of the least understood and least discussed aspects of male sex offenders is the sexual response of those who live with autism. Part of the reason is that the group is very small; numbers are not available, and few arrests are on record. However, its significance points to a major lack: we don’t yet understand the social neurology of autism, nor its link to the role of supportive parental guidance. Particularly that of fathers for their sons. 

My daughter, Temple Grandin, a doctor of animal science, a professor at Colorado State University, and a world-famous advocate for autism, was diagnosed as autistic at age 2. In those early years I loved her, guided her, found teachers for her, and opened doors for her. As the years progressed and she began achieving a triumphant and meaningful life on her own, I began my own more serious study: doctors, teachers, researchers, psychologists, pathologists, counselors. Their knowledge of autism, though limited neurologically, was far-reaching socially. Over the years this knowledge has given me insight into autism’s social hurdles. This is why today I’m deeply distressed over the toxic combination of autistic men and child pornography. 

However, before any of us can express an opinion, we—the parents, doctors, counselors, lawyers, and judges—need to review and clarify what we know thus far about autism’s neurology and why it disorients both those on the spectrum and us.