Safety Tips to Avoid Victimization of a Crime
April 9, 2012 Prism Newsletter
By Amy Goodman
Let’s take time out in April to become aware of not only autism, but how it can affect other areas of an individual’s life. Did you know that people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and other developmental disabilities tend to be more likely to be victims of crime? A survey done in 2007 by the Autism Society of America (ASA) found that 35% of individuals with autism have been the victim of a crime.
There are many reasons why an individual with an ASD may be more susceptible to victimization. A preoccupation with other interests, as well as difficulties with social communication and societal rules may cause a person with an ASD to become a target of crime. An individual with an ASD may not always know what the social norm is; therefore, he/she may be unaware of the rules in society pertaining to safety. Another reason may be due to the fact that he/she may take everything literally, which leaves room for deception. To avoid victimization, here are some safety tips that people with ASD may want to consider:
- Avoid areas that are unfamiliar
- Consider carrying a cell phone
- Travel in groups
- Do not dawdle
- Do not appear rushed in a crowd
- Park in a secure place
- Keep car doors locked
- Avoid gawking
- Do not maintain eye contact
- Let someone you trust know of your travel plans
- Do not carry large amounts of cash
- Dress appropriately for the area or situation
- Stay in well-lit areas
- Do not wander off well-traveled pedestrian walkways
In the case of an emergency or if you feel your safety is being threatened, contact the police. Other ideas include carrying an identification card that says you have ASD or other developmental disabilities. The card should include your emergency contacts and details about your diagnosis. Autism cards are available from the Roaring Fork Autism Network.
If you do find yourself being a victim or witness of a crime and wish to report it, keep in mind that you are entitled to certain accommodations and additional supports during the reporting and trial process. These may include:
- Having another adult to accompany you during an interview
- Using a screen to ensure that you cannot see the defendant in court
- Pre-recorded testimonies and live TV links, allowing you to testify from outside the court
- Allowing the witness to use communication devices
- A court appointed intermediary, who works with you to make sure you understand the questions being asked and to make sure your responses are understood by the interviewer
The risk of being a victim of a crime can be minimized by following some common sense rules, as well as knowing and exercising your rights. Hopefully, some of the suggestions above can help you to avoid being a victim of crime. However, if you do find yourself in that situation, remember that there is always help available. You should never feel like there is no one to turn to in a time of need. Be aware, be knowledgeable, and be safe.
Amy Goodman is the Co-Director of the Autism NOW Center.