It is becoming sort of a sideline, and an unwanted one, for me to post blog entries about murders and attempted murders. It is emotionally exhausting on a number of levels. I need to do it, though, to counter the way-too-many people who legitimate the murder attempts/murders by pointing out the "defects" of the victim. The defense of the murderer often unwittingly (I think) starts with the very news reports that announce the crime.
This time, it is 14-year-old Issy Stapleton, whose mother tried to kill them both with carbon monoxide poisoning.
Traverse City Record Eagle Charges loom for Benzie woman in murder-suicide attempt
The article's first sentence blames everyone and everything but the person who attempted the murder, mostly "lack of services" and the victim, especially if the victim was seen as aggressive or "severely impaired:"
"A Benzie County woman who for years desperately battled insurance companies and bureaucrats to secure help for her acutely autistic, physically abusive daughter could face charges of trying to kill the girl in a failed murder-suicide attempt."
Every time another murder or attempt happens, the Autistic and ally "regulars," like me, write blog posts condemning the murder/attempted murder, and taking those to task who sympathize with murderers and would-be murderers.
And, every time, the other "regulars," people who side with the murderer/suspect/perpetrator, come out in droves and say things like:
"If you have not walked a mile in the murderer's shoes, don't talk." Well, I am talking. And, I won't walk in your shoes to do it.
When someone kills another person robbing a 7-11, no one says "Walk a mile in his shoes; he was really broke-lack of services." When someone drives while intoxicated and kills a carload of teenagers, no one says "Walk a mile in her shoes; she was drinking because she couldn't get into the treatment center-lack of services." When someone who is living in abject poverty kills another person, no one is there saying "Walk a mile in the destitute person's shoes-lack of services." Nope. They slap the person with a murder or manslaughter (in the case of the drunk driver) charge, have a trial, find the person guilty (if that can be ascertained from the evidence), and assign a sentence. No one finds it necessary to defend people who murder because they are poor, stoned, broke, or in other difficult situations. And they certainly don't blame the victim. And they don't ask you to walk in the murderer's shoes. And they don't tell you to shut up if you won't.
But, if the deceased or almost-deceased person has a disability, defenders crawl out of the woodwork from all over. Those people are defending, and because defending, condoning murder of Autistics and other people with disabilities.
Sensationalized media reports and "documentaries" touted by the mainstream press don't help reduce murder rates of disabled people. Defending the murderer does not help reduce the murder rates of disabled people. Threatening that more of us will be killed if the person doesn't get "services" (including way-out-in-left-field services like chelation and bleach enemas) does not help reduce murder statistics. If someone wants to get improved services and assistance and help for themselves and others, murdering someone and then sensationalizing it is not going to work. People read the "tragic" stories and then get on with their lives. I have yet to see one bit of legislation introduced or passed to improve service delivery because a disabled person with was murdered, especially when the victim is blamed or even written out of the story.
Two reasons for fullest sentence possible: 1. A child's life was almost taken 2. Prevention of copycat murder concerns due to media and comments by "supporters of K. Stapleton (and D. Spourdalakis)."
If you are concerned that you or someone else might murder or commit violence against a family member:
Use the services that are available. Actually DO use them. If you feel like you are at your wits' end, call someone. Yes, your child might be taken from you. The child might also be returned after a short period of time. Foster care workers can step in. Social services can help, at times. It's not great, and it is admitting that you are overwhelmed, but it's better than the child's life being stolen from them. Autism does not "steal" children. Murder definitely does.
I won't walk in your shoes.
This blog post was discussed on Michigan's MLive.com: Mom's alleged attempt to murder autistic teen prompts national, Kalamazoo response. The article talks about those who do the "don't judge until you have walked in their shoes" thing, and then goes on to give our point of view: "But national advocates for autistic adults have a different point of view: Autism is no excuse for murder." There is a fairly extensive discussion and quotes from this blog entry. I am heartened to see, in the midst of the anguish that yet another murder/attempted murder has caused my community, that someone in the media is listening to us and taking us seriously. This article is much more balanced and appropriate than CBS's misguided approach to the murder of Alex Spourdalakis.
The Facebook vigil in memory of Alex Spourdalakis has been updated and will be ongoing. Issy's name has been added. You may join this site *if* you agree to the posting rules. Any posts not in accordance with the posting rules are removed immediately.
Autistic Community Vigil in Memory of Alex Spourdalakis, Murder Attempt on Issy Stapleton, and All Those Murdered Because They Are Disabled
IF YOU ARE CONTEMPLATING MURDER, SUICIDE, OR BOTH, CONTACT THE LINK BELOW. THIS LINK IS FOR THE SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES ADMINISTRATION (SAMHSA). I WILL POST MORE LINKS AS I CHECK THEM TO MAKE SURE THAT THEY GO SOMEWHERE AND ARE APPROPRIATE FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF MY COMMUNITY. I WILL NOT BE POSTING "TRAGIC DISEASE" LINKS. http://beta.samhsa.gov/find-help
UPDATE (Sept. 2013): There will be a live chat on the attempted murder of Isabelle Stapleton, on MLive, which has been doing an excellent job of covering the news on this issue. The chat will be Tuesday September 10, 2013 at noon East Coast time. The chat will be entirely text-based. You can access the chat here:
Issy Stapleton case prompts live chat Tuesday with autism parent, advocate
I actually do feel something (other than disgust) for this person who made such an awful choice.* If the (mostly) parent community swiftly condemned her actions and did not ask "us" to modify our stance because the victim was no picnic to live with, that would leave me some room to feel a modicum of perhaps head-shaking sorrow, or to use some of that empathy that non-autistics say they have to think about this parent spending the rest of her life in jail. But because of the insistence by countless (mostly) parents that we excuse murder and murder attempts, or silence ourselves because we have not lived that parent's life, I am not able to write about that publicly and maintain my responsibility to my community-people with disabilities who are in harm's way more often than not. My responsibility to my Autistic and disabled community does not preclude compassion for those who have made mistakes. But when an large part of the "autism community," including the media, "Who Killed"- type conspiracy movies, privileged appearances on mainstream TV, insists that we are to blame for our concern for the life of a child, I can't partipate in the "outpouring of compassion"- for the aggressor. When autism is called a "jail" but the car filled with charcoal burners is not also likened to a jail?: I don't have a choice but to stand on the side of those disabled people, and (some) parents, who insist that justice be harsh.
*This does not mean I understand why she did it, that I can put myself "in her shoes" and imagine murdering a child (I can't. At all.). It does mean I can feel sorrow that someone has done something like that and ruined many lives including their own.
Live coverage of sentencing case for K. Stapleton is here. The live coverage is posts and tweets from M-Live personnel allowed to comment. Live Coverage: Kelli Stapleton faces sentencing in attempt to kill autistic daughter