Autism and the registry: one man’s story

By Michael McKay . . . I received this letter from a listener who felt compelled to contact me after hearing my recent interview with Dr. Nicolas Dubin (Psy.D.) an author and advocate for people with autism and for people who are on sexual offense registries. The letter-writer, whom I’ll refer to as “Jack” for his own protection as well as for the benefit of his current employer, felt it important that people be given an opportunity to get a glimpse into the intersectionality that sometimes occurs between autism and sexual offenses.

This is his story:

When I was a little boy, I had autism. I didn’t learn to speak, except in gibberish, until I was almost five years old. I would make repetitive motions to communicate, such as rocking back and forth or slapping myself. Unfortunately, my parents didn’t know what autism was. Very few people had ever even heard of it in those days, and fewer people still were properly diagnosed.

I fell further and further behind the other children in my age-group in terms of my social maturity. While the other boys and girls were developing their social skills, exploring their sexual differences by playing doctor, and pairing off into couples, I was still learning how to talk. As we all grew older, they figured out the complexities of attraction, dating, and relationships. But I never did.

I had no idea how to approach a girl to have a simple conversation, much less ask her to go out with me. I gave it a shot once or twice, but I failed miserably and became the butt of a lot of cruel jokes. It seemed that no matter how hard I tried, others my age always seemed to misunderstand me. And I certainly didn’t understand them. Whatever it was that they were thinking, feeling, or doing – it was a complete mystery to me.

As a young teen, I was physically normal in all respects, but my maturity level was years behind my classmates. I was book-smart and excelled in practically every subject. But by the tenth grade, my social ineptness and inability to cope had led to bouts of major depression which kept me bedridden for months at a time. I have continued to suffer depressive episodes throughout my life.

I came to realize that I simply would never be able to relate to people my own age. Children, however, were much easier for me to relate to. They seemed to understand me, and I certainly felt that I understood them. They admired me because, as far as they were concerned, I was an adult and worthy of their respect. I admired them for their honesty and their lack of complexity.

As I grew older and lonelier, I got angrier and angrier. I resented how easy it seemed for my peers to find a mate, to build a life, and to find happiness. I began to think that I was inferior and that God hated me and had cursed me. Over time, my anger became a deep and seething rage. Why was I being persecuted in this way? Why weren’t women interested in me? How would I ever be able to find a loving partner and raise a family? The one thing I wanted – a normal life, which seemed to come so easily for everyone else – was being denied to me by a vindictive God and his cruel conspirators. I was furious with everyone except for the children. They were always kind to me.

As the rage in me increased, I began to do increasingly crazy things. I became a fanatical advocate for the “rights” of pedophiles to enter into sexual relationships with children. Eventually, I “exercised” that so-called “right” and sexually abused a minor. At the time, I didn’t understand that what I was doing was wrong. In my own immature, justifying mind, it seemed natural because we were at a comparable level of emotional development. I thought, we were both enjoying it, so how could it be wrong? I seriously didn’t realize just how exploitative it was.

Then, I was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to twelve years in prison.

At first, I couldn’t understand why everyone was telling me that I’d done something wrong. After all, I never considered myself a bad person. It was God and everyone else who were mean! I thought of myself as someone who loved children and was kind to them. I may have been angry at times, but that anger was always directed within, never towards others.

Since then, during my incarceration and since my release, I’ve undergone years of therapy and now realize that I was terribly wrong. I now understand that acting on any pedophilic attraction harms the psyche of a child, damages his or her ability to trust, and violates the social contract to protect children that we all subscribe to.

I’ve learned that life is short and that every moment is precious. I now know that I really wasn’t that different from everyone else. The problem was, I had simply given up trying and yielded to my anger instead of trying to learn to help myself. Perhaps, if I had just kept trying, I could have learned some effective coping mechanisms and life strategies that might have led to a meaningful relationship and happiness with someone my own age.

But I didn’t. I gave in to anger and frustration and self-indulgence and, because of that, I’ve spent a large chunk of my life in prison.

While incarcerated, I realized that I was in a very dangerous environment – particularly so for someone with a sexual offense. I could either learn to get along with people, or I would end up dead. I chose to live. I also resolved never to come back.

I am now a free man – a different man than the one who was sent to prison. A lot of time has passed, and I have grown older and wiser. Some might think that any chance I might have had to meet the right person and raise a family has passed me by, since I am now 52 years old. My hair and beard have gone grey, and I’m not as spry as I used to be. Does that make me “over the hill”? I don’t know.

But there are some things that I do know.

I now know how to let go of that rage I’ve felt for so many years. I know that I am not inferior, just different. I know that everyone has difficulties and we each must learn how to cope in our own way. I know that I am blessed with a wonderful job that utilizes my unique talents. And I know that I won’t give up this time.

Someday, I will find that special someone and we will build a happy life together.

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