Thursday, April 24, 2008

Abuse: Disability Blog Carnival #36

Alright, I've got a lot of interesting (and sad) posts for this one.
Laurie Toby Edison describes the use of allergies for bullying. The victim is a girl severely allergic to peanuts. To get her to stop sitting with them, a group of girls all brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It's a very shocking case, and her take on it is quite interesting.
Kay Olson describes an experience she had with institutional abuse. There are three aspects of this story that are quite important to highlight: firstly, the attitude that doing her job is an annoyance and unduly burdensome (reminiscent of the description of answering call lights in My Contaminated Smile); secondly, the power to deny the opportunity to communicate, which is such a big issue in the lives of assistive communication users; and thirdly, the 'catching' someone doing something they said they needed help with, something I've experienced as well. Another important aspect of her account is the reasons she didn't report it to that woman's superiors. She was afraid she'd be left in the care of a woman who not only was abusive, but who had a grudge against her in particular because she got in trouble with her boss.
David Hingsburger talks about a movie he's been involved with regarding the sexual abuse of developmentally disabled people in a group home. This movie has an important aspect of education, because it vividly shows the steps involved in reporting abuse.
Cusp describes the feelings evoked by the rejection of her application for DLA. Many of these I can relate to, even though I haven't been in that particular situation. When I was signing up for the disabled youth group I belong to, the form asked what I needed assistance with, and I was at a loss. I'm so used to just struggling on my own with the things I struggle with, telling no one or only my family. I finally told them that I tire easily from physical activity, that I have no sense of time, and that I find it hard to navigate by bus, but with each of those, similar things ran through my head. "But after all, I manage don't I?"
Athena, The Integral and Ivan describe their definitions of abuse. Much of this sounds like abuse from the environment, not from other people (although The Integral's stuff certainly is). An interesting idea. Does that meet the definition of abuse?
Bev describes the point of autism awareness. Another, more recent post I stumbled upon on her blog just now is a humorous description of how we need a cure for autism awareness. She discusses Donor X, a sperm donor who has fathered several autistic kids, and how, despite the positive view of autism that one of the parents has shown, the sperm bank removed his sperm. Not just identified it, added a marker stating he's had many autistic kids - they removed it. Can't have those people, even when one of his children has incredible memorization, reading, math and musical ability.
Casdok didn't submit a blog post, but she shared with me a comment posted on her blog (which she'd deleted):

“C isn't special to the rest of the world, he is only special to you. He is a burden to the rest of the world and if he was another part of nature, like an autistic fish for example, would have died long ago. You just use others to keep him alive.
And C is not the kind of high functioning autistic that will ever contribute anything to mankind. But that's okay, if something happens to you they will just control him as they wish with drugs, like you should have allowed them to in the first place. He is not a complete person, he is an autistic that shits all over everything. Get over it.
You made him, put on your big girl panties and deal with it, and stop being so self centered."

Well, that's certainly abusive!
She also makes an interesting comment: 'abuse stems from ignorance.' I wonder about that. I may blog about it later.
Dorry Carr-Harris at the Torontoist discusses an art exhibit about the history of disability discrimination. They presented 13 objects, including a closet with sixteen identical sweatsuits for institution residents to wear, a billboard listing 'four types of mental deficiency' and a bassinet belonging to a 'funny looking kid' who was given a digoxin overdose without her parents' knowledge.
Jeff McNair discusses the horrifying statistics regarding the rate of sexual abuse of developmentally disabled people, and the protective role the Church could serve. He says that ministers should watch out for this, and if they suspect abuse, they should report it. He also discusses the resistance to inclusion that he's encountered when doing activities with developmentally disabled group home residents.
Astrid asks the important question of whether you should pressure disabled children to achieve at a normal level in every area. She discusses reading speed for blind children - Braille readers tend to be slower. Her discussion reminds me of my old post Milestones, in which I argue that a disabled person's achievements should be celebrated based on how hard they were to achieve, rather than undervaluing milestones met later than normal (or overvaluing things which really aren't that hard).
William Peace discusses rich priviledge and a quadriplegic man who can afford state of the art technology and all the best care, and doctors are 'amazed by his progress'. It reminds me of all these people who pay enormous amounts to cure their autistic children, while moaning about the economic burden and ignoring the families just struggling to survive, who have trouble keeping food on the table, much less getting expensive therapies. Another thing I've noticed is the 'perfect lives' phenomenon - if practically everything's gone in your favour for most of your life, as soon as something doesn't, it's an absolute tragedy. The parent quoted in A Work in Progress said that having a developmentally disabled child must be 'every parent's worst nightmare'. Tell that to a refugee mother. Hey, you could even tell that to my mother, who found out her daughter was getting sexually abused in her own home. Clearly, if you think developmental disability is 'every parent's worst nightmare', you have led a sheltered life.
Shiva submitted an excellent post called The Thing Itself is the Abuse, about the common pattern of portraying 'misdiagnosed' people who were abused in a way common for the group they were mistaken as like their treatment would not have been abuse if they really were a member of that group. In my opinion, this is the best post contributed. I was going to give Shiva the blog award I'm supposed to pass on, but xe already got it. I've certainly noticed that as a problem myself. My teachers thought I had ADHD, and treated me badly based on that. Had I really had ADHD, if anything, it would have been worse, because their treatment of me would seem to me to be more 'justified'. In some cases, it is true that the misdiagnosis is the biggest problem (for example, a bipolar child misdiagnosed with ADHD will generally be given medication that is helpful for many ADHDers but induces serious manic symptoms, rapid cycling, and raging in many bipolar people) but it's really important not to assume that, or act as if certain categories of people are okay to abuse.
Knitting Clio posted an entry Good Cause, Bad Idea for Fundraiser about a 'Jail n' Bail' fundraiser for the special olympics. I'm kind of baffled by this. Where did that idea for a fundraiser come from? What did they mean by 'Jail n' Bail'?
Ruth posted about road rage against wheelchair pedestrians, clearly a terrifying situation for the pedestrian. Sometimes I really wonder about people, and road rage is one of those things I don't understand. I actually understand a parent killing their disabled child better than I understand road rage (note: understand is very different from agree).
The Goldfish will be hosting the next Blogging Against Disablism Day on May 1st, and has written a comment about terminology in preparation for it. And the next Disability Blog Carnival will be at cripchick's weblog. The deadline is May 4th, the carnival will be up on May 8th, and the topic is 'Disability Identity' - something I know I will be able to blog insightfully about, as this is an issue I've pondered a lot.
Lastly, I have my own comments. Firstly, I notice that all the posts seem to be primarily about real abuse of disabled people. Although this is an important issue, I'm a bit disappointed that no one discussed the following:
  • things wrongly perceived to be abuse of disabled people, such as the belief that denying autistic, ADHD or other disabled children treatment to make them more normal is abuse; the attitude that it's abusive to deliberately have a disabled child, or even not take 'sufficient' measures to prevent their birth; and the assumption that if a disabled woman is pregnant, she must have been raped.
  • stereotypes about abuse by disabled people, such as the belief that developmentally disabled men are sexually abusive (because they have 'animal urges' that most of us supress and they don't); the identification of certain disability-related characteristics as indications of a criminal or potential trouble-maker (such as the tale of a bipolar middle-eastern man who was mistaken for a terrorist, or the 'walking while developmentally disabled' crime that Amanda Baggs has gotten in trouble for); or portrayal of simply being exposed to a disabled person as a form of abuse.
  • lastly, real abuse by disabled people (especially mentally ill/developmentally disabled abusers), how it is viewed, why they do it, and so on. A certain proportion of abuse survivors go on to perpetuate abuse (such as the autistic mother I heard about with seriously low self esteem who verbally abused her autistic child for being too much like her). Disabled abusers, if they abuse in ways society generally recognizes as wrong, may be more likely to be caught. They are also viewed differently, either as 'can't help it' or as much worse than a non-disabled abuser. And lastly, the existance of disabled abusers feeds into stereotypes regarding disabled people, and is used to justify abusive treatment of disabled people.

Regarding that last category, a study I found recently is relevant. They studied sexual abuse of developmentally disabled people by developmentally disabled or non-disabled men. Firstly, they found that almost half of the reported cases of abuse of a developmentally disabled person involved a disabled abuser. The disabled abusers were more likely to have abused men, more likely to have done sexual touch or masturbation instead of attempted or actual penetration and more likely to have done only a single episode of abuse. All in all, it sounds like they were probably much more often reported. Possible reasons are suggested by the fact that others had witnessed the abuse three times as often if the abuser was disabled, suggesting the disabled abusers were less sneaky when abusing others. Another fact is interesting: though the disabled abusers appear more likely to be identified, they were also much less likely either to be charged or have charges considered. Almost all of the disabled abusers either had no action taken, or in-service action such as warnings to staff working with them, whereas 'only' about 2/3rds of the non-disabled abusers were treated this way.

PS: Laura, the link you sent me seems to be broken, and I couldn't find the post by searching your blog. Sorry.

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Blogger Athena Ivan said...

we had very little time to put something we listed definitions and just a bit of real abuse.........

We didn't know whether you just meant abuse from people or people and the environment. They are different kinds of is just mental and the other is everything......mental, emotional, physical possibly..........

Ivan of athenivanidx

10:11 AM  
Blogger David McDonald said...

Damn! I wasn't aware that an abuse carnival was happening. My blog deals primarily with abuse related issues. Guess I'll just leave a link for folks interested in more related material.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Tera said...

Nice job, Ettina!

Did you get Fledchen's submission?:

If It Works, Why Not?

I had one, too, but I wasn't sure if it fit--it's not specifically about disability:

No Words

But Fledchen's is really good.

2:40 PM  
Blogger Penny L. Richards said...

Well done, Ettina--I like the care you took in the presentation, and the posts are important, interesting, and infuriating by turns--like any good carnival!

3:05 PM  
Blogger cripchick said...

i can't believe that one comment to casdok. or maybe i can.

great job, ettina.

5:19 PM  
Blogger Kay Olson said...

Great job, Ettina. Thanks for including me and for putting all this together in context.

10:51 PM  
Blogger Ruth said...


Very thorough and thought provoking carnival on an important topic. Perhaps we may need to revisit some of the topics you suggest at the end in another carnival? Certainly lots of things to think about from this carnival. Thanks for including my post.

7:43 AM  
Blogger shiva said...

Wow, thanks for the compliment, tho i'm not sure if i deserve it, because i felt like i was cheating a bit by submitting an old post that just happened to be on the theme, rather than writing one specifically for this carnival.

Sadly i don't think i'm going to be able to post for BADD or the next blog carnival, even tho i really want to, because i'm probably not going to have continuous net access again until some time after May 4th. :( But i will try to at least link to them, anyway...

5:25 PM  
Blogger David said...

Thanks for putting this carnival together.

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