That means that teaching consent and boundaries to people on the spectrum, male and female alike, is absolutely critical. Unfortunately, more often than not, what we teach is the exact opposite. As part of managing behaviors, we teach people on the spectrum conditioned compliance. We teach them hand over hand, we teach them that they are to unconditionally follow directions from authority figures, we teach them that they are to comply. And when it comes to preventing sexual abuse, that can be a very dangerous thing.
Naturally, there are times when compliance really is important and bodily autonomy is sacrificed for a greater good - like getting a shot at the doctor's office, for example. (Which, when Caley got one as a kid, required no less than three nurses and my mom to hold her down for. It was the only way they could find to get her the shot.)
But there are other times when we really can teach bodily autonomy, can teach that no means no. Tickling, for one. When I tickle kids on the spectrum (or any kids, for that matter), the INSTANT that they say 'no!' or 'stop!', I stop. And, then, of course, they ask me to tickle them again. But they know that they can say no whenever, and I'm teaching them that that word has power. For children who do not speak I could still use this exercise, because remember, behavior is communication. Even if they can't say no, they can still push your hand away, make noises, sign, or otherwise communicate 'no' or 'all done'.
That, of course, is only one example of teaching consent. There are many ways to teach it, and I'll link you to several articles that have done a great job of covering the issue. The point here was, however painful it is to think about, this really is an issue to be aware of, and one you can start teaching children young. Trigger warnings for all links.
Diary of a Mom's take on the issue: "When we prize compliance over communication, we train our children to be victims. How do we tell our children that it’s okay to say No while keeping tallies of “incidents of non-compliance”? ... How do we teach them to create and enforce their own boundaries when we don’t recognize them when they do?"
An Autistic adult's perspective: "Children like yours -- children like I was -- are taught to be compliant. [...] They learn quickly that when they do what you want them to do, they are a “good girl” and when they try to do what they want, they are a “bad girl.” I was not allowed to refuse to hug the man who sexually molested me for a decade of my childhood because I might “hurt his feelings.” That’s pretty major, but there were millions of minor experiences along the way, chipping off my understanding of myself as something owned by myself and not something owed to the world around me."
Child Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet: "Let children know that they have the right to make decisions about their bodies. Empower them to say no when they do not want to be touched, even in non-sexual ways (e.g., politely refusing hugs) and to say no to touching others." (Advice on preventing abuse is on the last page.)
Autism, Relationships, and Sexuality: For information specific to sexual abuse, skip to page 110.
Sexual abuse is an unspoken issue for autistic people, but we can't help combat it unless we acknowledge it. Teaching people on the spectrum consent and bodily autonomy is one of the best ways we can do so.
[This seems like a good time to remind you all that I am not a professional, and this advice comes only from personal experience as a family member and someone who has cared for children on the spectrum.]