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Issy Stapleton and a Compassionate Response to Violence

jumpingjacktrash:

thraenthraen:

Trigger warnings for ableism, murder, mention of suicide, victim-blaming, and probably other things. (Let me know if I missed something.)

I have been thinking a lot about Issy Stapleton (here is an article, but note that it comes with a trigger warning for victim-blaming and murderer-sympathising)—and about Alex Spourdalakis, Jaelen and Faith Edge, Randle Barrow, Mickey Liposchok, George Hodgins, Daniel Corby, Katherine McCarron, and so many others. The autism_memorial livejournal has over 180 separate accounts of murder (or, in a few cases, reported suicide) of autistic individuals—mostly by family members, caregivers, and even police. Even that list is an understatement. Crimes so often go unreported or misreported, or when they are reported (accurately), they may never have enough media coverage for the autistic community and our allies to find out. 

Of course I’m sad. Of course I’m mad. Of course there is a very angry, very hurt part of me that just wants to run around screaming and breaking things until this finally stops, until murdering your child (or anyone, but especially someone in your care) is never okay, never justified. I’ve taken so long with this post because I don’t know how to think about this without feeling a blinding rage or overwhelming sadness or both. This sucks.

Kelli Stapleton made a disgusting, inexcusable choice. Nothing justifies attempting to murder your child, okay? Lack of support services for families (and I will just point out that the Stapletons had access to an abundance of support services) does not justify murder. Autism does not justify murder. Nothing ever, ever, ever can justify or excuse this. We shouldn’t even have to talk about this. 

I have a choice, too, and I have been thinking a lot about it over the past few weeks. While the news hurts, while it makes me feel furious and frustrated and desperate and powerless, I have a choice in how I respond and in what I write here. I am not powerless, and we can change the conversation. In fact, we absolutely must change the conversation.

The first thing we must do is stop othering autistic people and others with disabilities. We need to value and prioritise their (our) voices and experiences. Spend some time listening to (or reading) the voices of autistic people. You could start with these:

On the subject of prioritising autistic voices, I am just going to link you to an excellent masterpost on why Autism Speaks is awful and must not be allowed to speak for autistic people. The tl;dr is that Autism Speaks perpetuates violence against autistic people both directly (see: the bit about the Judge Rotenberg Center) and indirectly (see: their constant messaging of autistic people as “burdens” and so on), and uses money that could be spent on support services and advocacy and instead spends it on eugenics research. Support organisations led and run by autistic people instead, such as the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network and the Autism Women’s Network.

And when we talk about voices, we have to talk about intersectionality and diversity. We have to talk about how the “face” of autism is always white, often male and middle-class when the reality is autistic people come in all races, ethnicities, classes, genders, sexualities, and so on. You might, for example, check out a blog like Queerability, which focuses on the intersection of the LGBTQ+ and disabled communities. Imagine people, including autistic people, complexly.

Once you’ve gotten a bit of a grasp on the complexity and nuance inherent in our community, it’s time to start educating those around you. Share the voices you find. Push back against stereotypes (even if they seem like “positive” stereotypes—”idiot savant” isn’t a compliment, and it devalues and erases autistic people who don’t fit that “ideal”) whenever you hear someone repeat them. Stand up to any suggestion that violence against a vulnerable population is justified.

And, bloody hell, if you are a parent (or caregiver) and the thought crosses your mind that things might be better if you killed your child (or person in your care), get help NOW. Please stop what you are doing and get help immediately. Call 911 (or the equivalent in your country). Before you reach a point of crisis, get connected with other parents and caregivers for support, such as Parenting Autistic Children with Love & Acceptance. And if someone is in any way justifying violence against your child, cut that toxicity out of your and your child’s life. 

The compassionate response to violence is not to side with the perpetuator of violence, nor is it to simply punish the perpetuator (although I am not arguing against punishment for Kelli Stapleton). Compassion goes further: it offers healing and safety to victims, and it fights to end the cycle of violence. We have a choice in how we respond, and if we are to choose compassion (which I certainly hope we will), we must do more with our pain. We must work toward a world without violence and where people like Issy Stapleton feel safe, loved, and valued. 

It’s been a tough few weeks trying to sort through all of my emotions about this, but somewhere, buried beneath all of my anger and frustration and sadness and rage and nausea and fear, I have just the tiniest bit of hope. A different world is possible. I need you to help me make it possible. Educate yourself. Educate your friends. Change the conversation.

this is so important. please signal boost. it’s really long past time the media stopped sympathizing with murderers and acting like disabled people deserve to die.

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