Written by Beth Ryan
“We should talk about supports that families need. We should talk about it when there are cuts. We should talk about it when lack of services makes it difficult for us to work, to go out in the community, to perform ADLs, etc. We should talk about supports and services until our faces turn blue – but NOT in connection to murders.
When someone kills their disabled child/children and our response is “this shows that we need more services,” we as a community are taking people with disabilities hostage. The implicit threat is “give us more help or the kids die.” Saying that parents are forced to kill their children by lack of services also destigmatizes child murder and excuses the parents’ actions. The truth is that plenty of parents raise children with disabilities under all kinds of circumstances, without killing or abusing them.
Service provision is so so very important but we CANNOT use child killing as a launching platform for advocacy on this issue. It will do more harm than good.” Zoe Gross
The importance of the statement above, made by Autistic activist Zoe Gross, cannot be overstated.On April 3rd, Robert Robinson was murdered by his mother, Angie (who also committed suicide). Robert was 16 years old and Autistic.
The conversation following the murder centered around lack of services and sympathy for the mother. As it always does. I can say always because this happens with enough frequency to warrant that language.
Why are we not collectively outraged that disabled people are being held hostage by those that are making terrorist threats?
That IS, by definition, what is happening. A politically motivated group is making threats of further violence against a vulnerable group of people. Disabled people.
It is tempting to negotiate with terrorists. Especially when the threats of violence are credible. And recent history has shown these threats to be quite credible. But we know that submitting to this type of savagery opens the door to continued–escalated even– violent coercion. Surrendering to those that use homicide as a negotiation tactic serves to reinforce this as a viable means of political gain.
Productive conversations by peace loving people do not begin with ultimatums of brutality. Not ever. Parents that love their disabled children do not threaten to do them harm should their demands not be met. People that value the lives of disabled people do not sympathize with the thugs that make such threats. Nor do they use the violence already perpetrated by other parents as blackmail to achieve their objectives.
The most compelling argument cannot be entertained when it is dictated that the rejection of said argument will result in the intentional harm of other human beings. Scores of parents to Autistic children are engaging in this type of threat. By doing so, they are undermining what is, in many cases, a valid plea.
ALL Autistic people need more support and accommodation. Caregivers need different and better supports than what is currently available to most. (I would argue that what caregivers think is needed, in most cases, is actually contrary to their objectives but that’s a whole other discussion). However, the murder of a disabled person is not a result of the failure to meet these needs. The murder of a disabled person by a caregiver is an intentional act of hate. Pairing it with a suicide does not make the perpetrator more sympathetic, more understandable, or less hateful. Attempts to make martyrs out of those that execute or attempt to execute (as we see being done with Kelli Stapleton), is consistent with the strategies that terrorists routinely employ.
I demand that my Autistic child and her tribe be treated humanely. And though standing up for human rights and social justice is of critical importance and is central to my beliefs, I haven’t once resorted to threatening violence if my demands are not met. How ironic, then, that those actively engaging in terrorist-style ultimatums and threats, consider me to be a part of some sort of radical fringe movement. Chew on that!