Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It's Not OK

This is an anonymous post.

In the wake of the attempted murder of Issy Stapleton at the hands of her mother, Kelli (who tried to commit suicide at the same time), there have been a number of autism parent bloggers writing pieces that highlight how the lack of services drove the mother to the edge while pushing the horror that happened to Issy to the background.  As usual (because this is not the first time a parent has tried to murder or has actually murdered their autistic child), a line has been drawn in the sand.  On one side are those who unequivocally and rightfully condemn the mother.  On the other side are those who sympathize or empathize with the mother and/or insist on talking about the lack of services available to autistics and families.  There are some bloggers who have tried to find a middle ground, to straddle the line by condemning the attempted murder of Issy while insisting on talking about mental health, services, and the edge her mother must have been pushed over.  It is my very strong opinion that it is not okay to do this right now, that you cannot straddle this line, and that there is no middle ground when it comes to murder or attempted murder.

“But we have to talk about it”.  NO.  No you don’t, not right now.  It is not even remotely appropriate to empathize with the mother or to use this or any other tragedy as a soap box to talk about services so soon after it happened.  It is disrespectful to do so, dismissive even.  It feels like a huge betrayal.  Just… no.
“But we want to prevent this from happening again”.  Then stop making this about the mother, stop making her out to be a person to feel sorry for.  It does nothing but perpetuate the idea of ‘poor autism parents’.

In the wake of a tragic car accident caused by a person under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it’s really not ok to immediately talk about how alcoholism or drug addiction affects families, how the addict’s mental health is affected by their addiction, how society/the system is set up to make drugs and alcohol easy to get, or how badly insurance coverage for treatment sucks.   In the wake of a husband who murders his family and then kills himself (or attempts to), it is really not okay to immediately talk about how society puts pressure on men to be providers or else be labeled as failures, how family courts favor mothers, or how there is a social stigma that men who seek emotional/mental health help are weak.   In the wake of a mother who kills her non-autistic kid(s) we are outraged.  We don’t immediately sympathize with how hard motherhood is, we don’t talk about the financial, social, or emotional strain of raising kids, and if it is shown that the mother suffered from post-partum depression or psychosis, we don’t excuse her.  We don’t minimize the horror of other murders by empathizing with the murderer’s mental health issues or any other mitigating factors.  We don’t typically take any other instances of murder or attempted murder and so immediately use them as a platform for an agenda that casts the accused in a sympathetic light.  We don’t because it is wrong, the timing is wrong, it is extremely inappropriate and most people know it.  We don’t because people want and need time to be angry at the perpetrator, at the selfishness of it all, at how little sense it makes, and we know people should be able to be angry and grieve for the VICTIM without other people coming in and saying “oh, that poor responsible party, oh this awful lack of services, oh I can relate to that (urge to drive drunk/kill my girlfriend/leave this world and take my kids with me)”.  So why do people think it is okay to do it when there is autism involved?  The bottom line is – it’s not.  Using a tragic, selfish murder or attempted murder to draw attention to an issue or promote an agenda that sympathizes with an abuser/murderer while the tragedy is still so fresh is offensive and wrong.

I am the parent of an autistic child, and I know it is not always rainbows and roses; sometimes it has been a dark and lonely place.  I know parents of autistic kids that are much more challenging than mine, kids I love very much.  I know one child who can lash out violently.  I’ve seen their parents’ bruises; I’ve seen this child lash out.  I know these parents struggle, and I know these parents love their child dearly but worry about the future as their child grows and becomes stronger.  I know there is no easy answer for them, that any choice comes with pros and cons.  I also know that if either of these parents chose the path that Kelli Stapleton chose, they would get zero sympathy from me.   ZERO.   They’d get no more sympathy from me than drunk drivers who kill or hurt people get.  I would be devastated and angry, as I am now.  I would be furious about the selfishness that led to that choice, as I am now.  I would not be talking about lack of services or mental health or battle fatigue.  NO!  I would be too angry that someone I loved was dead or harmed at the hands of someone in a position of power and control.  I would be and am scared for my child, who is growing up in a world where people have empathy and sympathy for people that try to kill their own disabled kids, where disabled peoples’ lives seem less important than the lives of the people who care for them.  What happened to Issy is nothing less than devastating, and it is not okay to take this time of grieving and anger away from people by selfishly bringing controversy about the poor parent to the forefront and pushing the victim to the background.  It’s not okay to do that.  It’s just not. 

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