It was a calm Friday night in the homeless shelter.
The church volunteers were serving spaghetti.
One of the new residents walked up to me smiling broadly.
He was in his early 20’s, thin, nicely dressed, Asian and wearing thick coke-bottle glasses.
The conversation went something like this:
Ryan: Good evening! How my I help you?
Resident: I would love to have sex with you,
Ryan: [Stunned silence]
Resident: Was that inappropriate?
Resident: Then I take it back and I am sorry. I am Autistic.
Ryan: Ummm… ok.
Resident: That spaghetti is really good. Can I have more?
A week later, the same young gentleman asked me if I wanted to hear about his most recent sexual exploits.
I told him that would be inappropriate.
Again, he “took it back” and apologized.
Sexual Harassment and Cognitive Impairment
According to research, the following conditions can increase the odds that a person will say or do things that constitute sexual harassment:
- Autism – Because it can cause difficulty with social cues.
- Bipolar Disorder Manic Phase – Because it can cause disinhibition and hypersexuality.
- Traumatic Brain Injury – Because it can cause disinhibition.
- Dementia – Because of a myriad of changes to the brain, including disinhibition.
NOTE: I am NOT saying that all people with autism, bipolar disorder, TBI or dementia make inappropriate comments. I am saying that research says there is an increased risk of it.
So, what do you do with this information?
The world would be simpler if only bad people made sexually harassing comments.
Unfortunately, a lot of vulnerable people make inappropriate comments because of their vulnerability.
The literature/research says that some people may need “re-education” to help them understand professional boundaries.