New research has shown that teenagers with autism are being subjected to a high level of ‘mate crime’ - being robbed, abused and bullied by so-called friends.
The study, conducted by Wirral Autistic Charity, said that nearly 90 percent of teenagers with these conditions had suffered at the hands of their supposed friends through either manipulation or even abuse.
The research showed that many of the study’s 141 participants had been manipulated by their ‘friends’ with these experiences leaving some too scared to go out for fear of further bullying.
In one case, a “trusting and honest” 24-year-old man with autism had left his credit card and PIN number with a friend who later used it to pay for a huge bar bill.
The study revealed that another man suffering from one of the conditions had been befriended by his neighbours who then went on to store illegal drugs in his home.
Out of the 12 to 16 year olds who admitted that they felt as if their friends had taken them advantage of, more than half reported they’d been stolen from. For more than two-fifths, they had been subject to physical abuse.
As for the parents of these children, many revealed that they had been forced to move schools because the bullying was so extensive.
The parent of one 14-year-old who took part in the survey told the Daily Mailthat: “This is an ongoing thing which saddens me to the extreme. My son cannot distinguish banter from bullying and thinks it's ok that his so-called 'friends' call him names or 'accidently' hurt him or get him to do things for their amusement, but he's just trying to fit in.
“He's absolutely harmless, extremely vulnerable and it's so, so hard explaining that people are making fun of him and trying to get him into trouble for their own fun.”
The report itself stated: “The overall picture our survey paints is one of heightened vulnerability amongst people with autism and Asperger's syndrome to an insidious, hidden form of crime.
“Often, the person with autism is unaware that what they consider friendship is potentially an abusive relationship. It is the parents and carers who recognise the issue but then struggle to find the right way to provide support to the individual.”
Those between 16 to 25 were revealed to be the most vulnerable age group with every respondent remarking that they had struggled to distinguish genuine friends from those who looked to exploit them.
Research also shockingly showed that over a third of the adults who took part in the study had been exposed to bullying or manipulation that was sexual in nature. Some had been coerced into ‘sexting’, according to the study.
An additional study by the National Autistic Society (NAS) delivered a similar conclusion. Out of the 1,300 adults with autism who took part in the survey, half admitted that they had been abused by someone they knew.
The charity said that people suffering from autism can find it hard to interpret other people's motivations and as a result can be taken advantage of or manipulated.