So just what exactly is “Mate Crime”?

“Mate crime” is a term I had never heard before I started becoming more aware about Autism Spectrum Disorder.  According to a quick Google search, mate crime is defined as the exploitation, abuse or theft from any vulnerable person by those they consider to be their friends.

Simply put, vulnerable adults are targeted by people who claim to be their friends, and taken advantage of for their money or property, because the targeted adult unwittingly doesn’t know any better.  It’s almost a perfect crime in that there is pretty much no way to punish the guilty.  Since the victim agrees to the transactions, there is no criminal theft involved.  In other words, there are sleazeballs out who think it’s a hoot and a half to prey on the helpless who already struggle enough with their daily lives.  In my opinion, this is total cowardice.

I never even thought about such a thing existing until I realized that I have often been the victim of such acts.  This was especially true in my early 20s.  I suddenly went from having zero friends to being surrounded by a whole bunch of people who thought I was just the greatest thing since sliced bread.  It started out with simple things.  Giving rides to here or there, lending a few bucks to rent movies at the video store, simple stuff like that.

Then business picked up.  It hit the point that they knew my pay schedule better than I did, and knew that when I got paid that we should all go out for food and drinks and hold me responsible.  I couldn’t see that this was wrong.  In my mind, I had friends, and that was well worth the financial burden.  It got to the point I was lending out hundreds upon hundreds of dollars to these people.  This wasn’t even money I had.  I made cash advances on credit cards to do this. Even though it was driving me into severe financial ruin, in my eyes, I was doing the right thing.

I really thought I would see this money back.  I really thought people would have the common courtesy to repay their debts. They never did.  Not a penny.  Then it got worse.  Some of these so called “friends” would help themselves to my personal items.  They’d come over my house, feign interest in anything I do, and then disappear with something valuable of mine.  I lost video games, video game consoles, guitars, and even had cash stolen from a clothes drawer.  All I kept thinking was, it’s worth it for the friendship because I was finally getting positive attention.

It is still a deep struggle for me to be able to tell who is pulling the wool over my eyes, and who legitimately needs help.  I can’t help out people anymore because of this.  If someone’s in legit need of assistance, it can’t come from me.  I’m not sorry about that either.

For anyone who struggles with feeling victimized by your friends, please be aware that this serious problem exists and is apparently common among those who are wired a little differently. There is no friendship in the world that is worth going broke over. If you feel like you’re settling other people’s debts, take a step back and don’t be afraid to say NO. If they can’t handle their financial woes, it is not your fault.

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