*The following article contains discussion of sexual assault.
Redditor Mindless-Barber-7349 is a 27-year-old man whose teenage nephew came to live with him and his wife after a tragic loss.
He described his nephew as “mildly autistic” and he does not do well with being touched by other people.
When a family member came over for a visit, the Redditor protected the nephew in a way that was met with disapproval, including from his wife.
He visited the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit and asked:
“AITA for not forcing my nephew to give my MIL [mother-in-law] a hug?”
The Original Poster (OP) explained:
“I’m 27M(ale) and well my sister died last year and my nephew (16M) came to live with us because we still lived close enough to where he wouldn’t have to switch schools or routines much.”
“He’s mildly autistic and really doesn’t like to be touched especially after his SA [sexual assault] when he was 14.”
“It took a while for him to even get comfortable enough to let his boyfriend hold him.”
“Monday my MIL came to visit for the first time since my nephew came to live with us so this was his first time meeting her.”
“Now my MIL is one of those down south moms with no personal boundaries who always expects a hug or a kiss.”
“So of course even though I explicitly warned her he doesn’t like to be touched she tries to get him to give her a hug and kiss anyways and she just kept badgering him about.”
“I could tell he was getting uncomfortable and was on the verge of a meltdown so I told him he didn’t have to and he could go hang out with his bf or his cousins who were outside and he scurried out of there faster.”
“My MIL said that he was being rude and that I undermined her and shouldn’t have let him disrespect her like that and my wife agreed that I should have tried to at least give her a hug. AITA?”
Strangers on the internet were asked to declare one of the following:
- NTA – Not the A**hole
- YTA – You’re the A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everybody Sucks Here
A majority of Redditors thought the OP was not the a**hole in the situation.
“NTA. Your MIL and your wife are flat-out wrong.” – MaggieLuisa
“Don’t forget it was the kid’s first time in meting mil even I would not want to kiss and cuddle anyone I just met at 16 what is your wife and mil thinking. NTA” – lynnebrad70
“No one should ever be forced to be touched by someone they do not want touching them. Not ever. Bodily autonomy must be respected, even by ‘southern mom types.’”
“The whole ‘it’s rude of you to refuse to let me assault you’ notion needs to die a swift & fiery death.” – Kathrynlena
“My kids are 5 and under and even they know they don’t have to touch/hug anyone they don’t want.”
“Their aunts, uncles and their grandparents always want to give them a hug, but my kids know they can choose to hug, give them a handshake or wave to them depending on how comfortable they feel with the person.”
“Sometimes the other person gets offended but they can suck it up, I’m not forcing my kids to hug them and give up their bodily autonomy to make you feel better!”
“Everyone should be able to set their boundaries and uphold them, they should not have to bend them in order to make others comfortable, especially someone they are meeting for the first time!”
“Your MIL and wife should be WAY more understanding, your nephew does not have to have physical contact with anyone unless HE feels comfortable doing so!” – chocgram
“NTA! Ask your wife if she would be comfortable at 15 being forced to hug / kiss an older man the first time she met him.”
“Not having any say in the matter… Just because it’s HER mother demanding the hug, it doesn’t make it less uncomfortable for a kid with sensory issues & has gone through losing his mom & having to uproot his life.”
“Personally, I think the #metoo campaign stressed consent and we should allow everyone the right to refuse unwanted touching. Male, female, nonbinary, etc – every person should be allowed body autonomy.”
“Thanks for stepping up and taking care of this kid!”
“Your SO needs to familiarize herself about sensory issues so she can appreciate why this child should be allowed to fist bump, elbow bump, or just say ‘hello’ to people.” – R4catstoomany
“NTA. Body autonomy is important. Nobody should be forced to hug or kiss someone if they don’t want to.”
“I’d even go so far as to say the fact that your MIL wants to hug and kiss someone who doesn’t want that is a bit weird.” – VVillyD
“NTA. Of course you’re not the a**hole.”
“What your nephew does with his body is his choice. Good for you for looking out for your nephew.” – fleurdegreen
Redditors on the spectrum shared their thoughts on the relatable situation.
“Autistic person here.”
“You are most definitely NOT the a**hole.”
“Please continue being awesome for your nephew!” – Llewellyn_Rutherford
“Also a mild autism, not against touch but some people on the spectrum are really sensitive to touch or horrified.”
“He has bigger boundaries in that regard and a lot of people on the spectrum have trouble expressing themselves, even more so under pressure if at all under panic.”
“Your MIL and wife are disrespectful to his boundaries as well as inconsiderate towards his disabilities.”
“Hopefully they didn’t play the ‘special’ card for a false sense of sensitivity as that really puts a bar in fixing the situation.” – -arloid-
“Another autistic adult here. I hate strangers touching me.”
“As an adult, an overbearing huggy person like MIL would just make me anxious and I’d probably try to avoid social events with her in the future.”
“But for a teenager, esp. one who’s experienced trauma, yeah this would’ve caused a meltdown.”
“And even if he wasn’t autistic and didn’t have trauma, he should have the choice.”
“But you would hope that, with people who don’t get consent when it comes to hugs would at least get it when it comes to autism or trauma.” – Actually_Mom
Overall, Redditors thought the OP did the right thing by looking out for his nephew’s best interest.
If you or someone you know experienced sexual assault, help is out there.
You can reach the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline by calling 1-800-656-4673, use their Live Chat tool: https://www.rainn.org/get-help, or visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.
In Canada, help is available through the Ending Violence Association of Canada website.
International resources can be found through the Rape Crisis Network Europe website.