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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

“This Was Just How This Friendship Worked”: Experiences of Interpersonal Victimization Among Autistic Adults

Pearson, Amy, Rees, Jon and Forster, Samantha (2022) “This Was Just How This Friendship Worked”: Experiences of Interpersonal Victimization Among Autistic Adults. Autism in Adulthood. pp. 1842-10. ISSN 2573-9581

Item Type: Article


Background: The victimization of autistic people by familiar others (interpersonal victimization) is an understudied phenomenon despite suggestions that prevalence rates may be disproportionately high. We know very little about the way autistic people perceive these experiences, and how to support them. The aim of the current study was to explore experiences of interpersonal victimization among autistic adults from their own perspective.

Methods: We recruited 43 autistic adults to take part in a qualitative online study, and asked about their experiences of being victimized or taken advantage of by people they know in the past. We analyzed their comments at the semantic level using inductive thematic analysis, from a critical realist perspective.

Results: We identified two key themes in the data. The first theme, “cycles of victimization” highlighted the occurrence of polyvictimization in the sample. The second (“perceptions of victimization”) focused on how these experiences were related to difficulties with trust (of both self and others), the recognition of victimization, and heightened compliance. The participants expressed difficulty with saying no to people, and found it difficult to identify when someone had negative or manipulative intentions.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that autistic adults experience victimization from a range of close others, and may find it difficult to recognize when someone is acting in an abusive manner. Many participants had experienced heightened compliance in response to unreasonable requests from others, however, reasons for this were varied (e.g., fear and desire to avoid confrontation) and require further investigation. These findings have implications for developing supports that enable autistic adults to recognize their own boundaries and advocate for themselves, in addition to helping them to recognize what a healthy relationship looks like.

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Depositing User: Amy Pearson


Item ID: 14581
Identification Number:
ISSN: 2573-9581
Official URL:

Users with ORCIDS

ORCID for Amy Pearson: ORCID iD
ORCID for Jon Rees: ORCID iD

Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 14 Feb 2022 13:28
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2022 13:28


Author: Amy Pearson ORCID iD
Author: Jon Rees ORCID iD
Author: Samantha Forster

University Divisions

Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing > School of Psychology


Psychology > Social Psychology

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