Monday, July 23, 2012

Open Letter to the Media in the Wake of the Aurora Shootings

Dear Media,

I am an Autistic adult. In the wake of the tragic shootings in Aurora, Colorado, my community was sitting not only in the sadness that all such tragedies bring, but also in fear and anticipation that once again, we would be your scapegoat. Once again, you would start declaring that we and the killer had the same neurology before the bodies were even cold, before the initial tears had dried.

And again, you did not disappoint. Again, you went to declare the killer mentally ill or Autistic before you even possibly had a chance to talk to anyone qualified to make those calls. Again, you cast yet another layer of suspicion on my community. Again, you made me someone to be feared.

Here's the deal, neurotypical folks of the media: You are far more dangerous to us than we are to you. The mentally ill and the developmentally disabled are far more likely to be your victims than you are to be ours.

Some stats for you, taken from this UK source:

  • 10% of convicted murderers had mental health problems.
  • 25% of the population has mental health problems.
  • 95% of homicides are committed by people without mental illnsses.
  • People with psychosis are 14 times more likely to be attacked than to be the attackers.
  • 25% of patients with mental illness have been the victim of violent crimes.
Clearly, people with mental illness have more reason to fear those without mental illness. Now, let's look at some developmental disability statistics, shall we?

From The MA government:

  • More than 90% of developmentally disabled people will be sexually abused.
  • 54% will be sexually abused 10 times or more.
  • Developmentally disabled adults have a 4-10 times greater likelyhood of being physically assaulted. 
  • 3% of these crimes will be reported.
There are no easily available statistics on developmentally disabled perpetators of crimes, in spite of the media's efforts to paint any and every violent criminal who gets national attention as Autistic.

Let's make this a bit more stark for you. Here is an incomplete list of disabled people killed. Most of the victims on this list are Autistic or otherwise developmentally disabled.

Peter Eitzen, 16, stabbed by his mother, July 2009.

Jeremy Bostick, 11, gassed by his father. September 2009.

Tony Khor, 15, strangled by his mother, October 2009.

Betty Anne Gagnon, 48, tortured to death by her sister and brother-in-law, November 2009.

Walter Knox Hildebrand Jr., 20 years old, died of a seizure induced by his brother’s physical
abuse. November 2009.

Laura Cummings, 23, tortured to death by her mother and brother, January 2010.

Ajit Singh, 12, forced to drink bleach by his mother. February 2010.

Gerren Isgrigg, 6 years old, died of exposure after his grandmother abandoned him in a remote
area. April 2010.

Leosha Barnett, 17, starved to death by her mother and sister, May 2010.

Glen Freaney, 11, strangled by his mother. May 2010.

Payton Ettinger, 4, starved by his mother, May 2010.

Christopher Melton, 18, gassed by his mother, June 2010.

Rylan Rochester, 6 months old, suffocated by his mother because she believed him to be autistic.
June 2010.

Kenneth Holmes, 12, shot by his mother, July 2010.

Zain Akhter, 5, and Faryaal Akhter, 2. Strangled by their mother, July 2010.

Rohit Singh, 7, beaten to death by his father, September 2010.

Zahra Baker, 10, murdered and dismembered by her stepmother and perhaps her father. October

Chase Ogden, 13, shot by his mother along with his sister Olivia. October 2010.

Kyle Snyder, 9, shot by grandmother. October 2010.

Karandeep Arora, 18, suffocated by his parents, October 2010.

Julie Cirella, 8, poisoned by her mother, July 2011.

Noe Medina Jr., 7 months, thrown 4 stories by his mother, August 2011.

Benjamin Barnhard, 13, shot by his mother. August 2011

Jori Lirette, 7, decapitated by his father, August 2011.

George Hodgins, 22, shot by his mother. March 2012.

There have been murders since the compilation of this list. There have probably been a number  that we will never know about. Nearly without fail the perpetrator is treated as the victim of the person they killed, as a hero for killing us. 

Yet you persist in putting forward the cultural narrative that we are the dangerous ones, both with your speculation that all killers are on our neurological team and with your treatment of our killers.

It is journalistic irresponsibility to do this, and it affects real people. We are the ones who have to live with the stigma you perpetuate. I am at risk of being killed because you tell the population that I am dangerous-despite that I am one of the 97% of developmentally disabled people who has been the victim of non mentally ill, non disabled violent perpetrators. You make the world more dangerous for me every time you do this. You make it more dangerous for my entire community.

We are not your scapegoat, and the trope of the dangerous neurodivergent is not only irresponsible, it is sloppy. Do some real research instead of lazily reaching into the bag of tropes every time someone does something terrible. Statistically speaking, we didn't do it, and spreading the idea that we did has very real consequences that can mean life and death for us. 

Terrifiedly yours,


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Things You Want People To Do To Your Kids

Dedicated to the parents I've come across this week. It's supposed to make you uncomfortable.

Ok, y'all. Let me say this for you, again:

The way you treat Autistic adults, you are condoning people to treat your Autistic kids just like that later.

So, apparently things you want people to do to your children in 10 years or so are as follows:

You want them to hear again and again that only parent perspectives matter.
-That what they have to say doesn't matter because they're too high functioning.
-Or too low functioning.
-Or too "emotional" about issues that effect their every day lives.

You want them to hear that they are a burden
-A disease
-A tsunami
-An emergency
-A threat
-And you want them to sit there & take it, if not flat out agree.

You want them to hear that they are the worst thing that can happen to a parent
-Life destroying
-Worse than cancer, AIDS, car accidents, lightning strikes
-cause of combat stress

You want them to hear that they have no empathy so they don't matter
-Other not-exactly-accurate stereotypes too
-Because reading your mind is the only meaningful empathy
-Because what is going on in our minds does not matter
-But not agreeing with you is more evidence that we are monsters
-And we must agree that we are monsters
-Otherwise it's more evidence that we have no empathy.

You want people to tell them, time and again that hurting people like them is understandable
-You want people to defend stories of extreme abuse to them
-Even abuse of people they care about
-Or abuse they went through
-Because, you see, being around them is so difficult it drives you to it.

You want them to hear how killing other Autistics is understandable
-"Don't judge" you say
-"Walk in the parents' shoes you say
-All while not even acknowledging that Autistics have shoes
-Much less feelings
-Or ability to see exactly how little our lives are valued.

You want people to treat them as less than human.
-Get a grip, you say, when we have opinions on our lives.
-You're just paranoid.
-You're crazy.
-You don't know what you're talking about.
-Gaslight, gaslight, gaslight.
-But they're Autistic, so they can't interpret their own feelings, you say.

You are giving the world permission, nay, encouragement to physically and psychologically abuse your children. Every time you do that to me, you do it to your child. If you love your child, why are you perpetuating a world in which they will be abused every day just for existing?

Is your sense of self righteous superiority and martyrdom really more important than your child's future?