I enrolled in college at 17. My parents refused to allow me to live on campus. They let me choose between two universities within driving distance from our home; I selected Nicholls State University, in Thibodaux, Louisiana. It was a 45 minute commute, through cane fields, and along the banks of the bayou.
My mother bore the irrational fear that I’d suffer a fatal car crash on my commute. She defended herself against this fear by enacting the impulse, derived from the magical, but imaginary, correlation between her thoughts and events, to invite my boyfriend to live with us. She believed that his presence in my vehicle would supernaturally deter disaster.
Had they permitted me to live on campus, the threat of potential automobile accidents would not have been an issue, yet from my parents’ perspective, this was unthinkable. They justified their convictions on moral and financial grounds.
Thus, my boyfriend, my assailant, an offender I call Grub, cohabited in our family home for the first semester of my freshman year of college. The house was tiny. My parents invested in a plush leather sofa-sleeper within which he slept in the family room to insure we remained appropriately distanced from one another at night.
In spite of the fact that we spent hours together, unchaperoned, in the house daily, the expectation of my parents was, of course, that we abstain from sexual activity. This wasn’t a problem for me. I wanted to abstain. I wasn’t emotionally ready for sexual intimacy, and I wanted, more than anything, to meet the demands of my parents’ authority.
Nevertheless, Grub, ever conniving, ever devious, manipulated the circumstances to best suit his impulses.
Only now, twenty years after the fact, am I aware of the role of my neurodivergence in the events that would follow–of its role in my lack sexual interest or curiosity, in my need to adhere to moral authority. Because I am autistic, I was vulnerable to Grub’s predatory behavior, and because my parents lacked awareness, they failed to intervene appropriately.
I share this story, not to throw my parents under the bus, but to raise awareness. Neurodivergence is still widely disregarded and diminished in American culture, especially when neurodivergent children develop compensatory measures that mitigate and/or disguise their social and communicative disabilities. It is my hope that by sharing my story, it will serve as a cautionary tale to heighten awareness for parents–to encourage appropriate intervention for neurodivergent kids.
Likewise, magical thinking is a pervasive cognitive distortion, and it is such because it is a distortion that is acceptable within our culture. However, decisions made as a result of magical thinking can foster events that are every bit as damaging or traumatic as the ones we attempt to avoid through our reactionary and avoidant measures. Effective intervention may only be implemented once enlightenment and awareness are achieved.