Monday, July 23, 2012

Autism, Aurora Shooter, and Actual Crime Statistics-Shooter Speculated to Be Neurologically Typical, not Autistic

This post was written in the wake of unfounded speculation about the shooter in Aurora. In that case, rumors that the shooter had Asperger's syndrome were made up by a member of the media. The Sandy Hook shooter did have Asperger's. The media (predictably) focused on that as "the cause" of the shootings until Autistic voices and the voices of concerned family and community members were heard. What follows is the post I wrote about the Colorado shootings, and crime statistics I put together a few years ago. The rest of this post does not deal with Sandy Hook.

We need to mourn the victims of the senseless shooting that took place in Aurora, Colorado. Stop thinking about the killer for a moment and remember the victims and their loved ones. 

When crimes like this happen, it is in some ways easier to turn toward the perpetrator, speculating about the person's mental health, life history, and motives. It is much easier than thinking about the dead victims, the victims in the ICU, the people whose lives have been shattered, the stunned, crying, angry families who will never see their loved ones again. It is so much easier to turn away from their pain and to become fascinated, fixated on the killer.  
 
The killer may indeed have been neurologically typical. 

Let us look at some statistics about who commits crimes:

In 2007, the Autism Society reported that 22 people in a 5-year period used Asperger syndrome as a defense in a violent crime case, or about 4.5 per year. For comparison, the FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics for 2006, shows 1,417,745 violent crimes committed. 4.5 of almost 1.5 million. Clearly, autism is not the prime suspect in violent crimes of any type.

The link to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports that I used to find violent crime statistics for just one year (a year close to the years used by the Autism Society) is here: http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2006/offenses/violent_crime/index.html

The Autism Society figures are linked to a news article about someone who did commit a murder and who was on the autism spectrum. You can search for the article and find it. Yes, people on the autism spectrum can commit murders, but typically we do not. People who have mental illnesses can commit murders, but typically they do not. And, people who are neurologically typical can commit horrendous crimes and get away with it. One list, and this one is related to autism, is here: 
http://www.geocities.com/growingjoel/murder.html
http://vitals.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/07/20/12858757-mass-murderers-often-not-mentally-ill-but-seeking-revenge-experts-say

Armchair psychologists, like the MSNBC commentator (not putting in his name because it's out there too much already) can do a lot of damage to people who have various developmental disabilities and mental illnesses. 

It is way too convenient to de-humanize and label people with differences and disabilities as "other". Instead of casting about for a "disorder" as a scapegoat, something "other" that we can pin the crime on , let us just deal with the reality of one person who committed a heinous crime.

Interestingly, the Autism Society released a statement that, in part, asserts: " As an organization representing families, the Autism Society appreciates that Mr. Scarborough is a very proud father of a son with Asperger’s syndrome and an advocate for the well-being of all people in our community." Why is the Autism Society saying that Scarborough is an advocate for Autistics? He has just caused untold damage for us and our families, friends, and communities by his thoughtless stereotyping of us. Nope. Scarborough is actually not an advocate. 

(http://www.autism-society.org/news/autism-society-calls-for.html)
To protest these comments and demand a retraction, please go here and sign: http://www.change.org/petitions/joe-scarborough-msnbc-retract-your-statements-about-autism-and-the-colorado-shooting

Some links to other posts on the topic are collected here: http://emmashopebook.com/2012/07/24/autism-assumptions-and-perpetuating-misperceptions/
ASAN comments: http://autisticadvocacy.org/2012/07/asan-expresses-deep-concern-over-scarborough-remarks-suggesting-aurora-shooter-on-the-autism-spectrum/
Thank you to Tommy Christopher for following up on the various comments and quasi-"apologies."