Thursday, January 26, 2012

Solutions (Two)

We made the decision quickly. Without even much of a second thought. What with the International Day of Mourning and Memory, and all the posts regarding that day, there has been so much emotion expended. Along with that, I've been doing a literature search on people with intellectual disabilities as witnesses in the justice system. This is in preparation for doing an article demonstrating that Self Esteem, Sex Education and Abuse Prevention classes taught to people with disabilities give them the words with which to tell what has happened to them and the self esteem needed to fuel courage in making and allegation and in testifying. We've got strong data to show that this works.

But, my oh my, the research is a bit bleak. It was shortly after reading a study that showed that if you give a written account of testimony to one group, telling them that the witness had an intellectual disability and exactly the same written account to another group telling them that the witness had typical cognition (I don't remember the words they used) the group who had been told that the witness had a disability rated the witness as non-credible and the group who had read the same testimony believing it was a typical witness saw the testimony as credible. Incredible? Incredible. Anyway, much of the research is about that kind of thing. But that was the one that pushed me over the edge.

Yesterday, for my sake, and for the sake of you as readers, I wanted to lighten up a little bit here on Rolling Around in My Head. It's good to look at life straight on , but it's also good to see good. But that study had me sit back in my chair at my desk at work, pick up the phone and call Joe to say, 'I need to go see Ruby and Sadie. I need a hug from the kids.' Joe agreed instantaneously, and it was all set up. We go tomorrow night. I'm more delighted than you can imagine.

I have a tendency towards both depression and anxiety. Not a debilitating tendency but those twin demons can rob me of the ability to experience joy. Given that I work, so often, in the area of abuse  - even though it's abuse prevention, life can get dark for me. Given too, that working on this paper has had me reading articles that are basically about how people with intellectual disabilities can be shut out of the justice system, not because of the disability they were born with but because of inability thrust upon them by forced ignorance and denied information. Imagine that a police office, already predisposed to see those with intellectual disabilities as incompetent, interviewing a woman who talks about how a man put his 'thingy' in her 'woo woo'. He will assume that that language is due to disability. He will not know that her disability was the cause for others to deny her the education from which she could have developed vocabulary. We've demonstrated that 'thingy' becomes 'penis' and 'woo woo' become 'vulva' in ONE TWO HOUR CLASS. We've demonstrated that passivity becomes assertion in ... Oops, I'm ranting.

Anyways, I'm halfway through the journal article now, I've got the data all done, I've got the literature review finished, I've got the introduction written. And through all that, I've managed to get myself right, royally, rueful. So, I'm going to get a Ruby Hug and a Sadie Hug and probably a Mike and Marissa Hug too. We'll spend the day with kids in a noisy kid place and then a day in a museum and then we'll come home. Monday I'll finish. I'll have pushed off all the darkness and be ready to write about solutions not problems ... which is the frame of mind I need to be in to write the next part of what needs to be written. The ... OK that's the problem ... ta, da, here's a solution. I shouldn't be doing this, I don't have time to do this, but I have to do this ... does that make sense?

So tomorrow it's video-conference ... hi to you folks up in the North, if anyone reads this let me know during the question section ... and then it's off to Ottawa. I hope to have a Ruby and Sadie stories on the blog on Saturday and Sunday. 


tekeal said...

sounds like a well-deserved hug-reprieve. once again, thank you for ALL that you do.

Shan said...

Aw jeez, you poor bugger. It's a dirty job, but I suppose somebody's got to do it.

It's like I said after I watched Saving Private Ryan: "I want to go home and wash my eyes."

Except you must want to wash your brain.

Now there's something - I mean, you can hire someone to wash your colon, for goodness' sake...what they really need is to invent a nice sudsy scrub for your memories.

I shouldn't comment late at night.

John R. said...

One of my many favorite Canadians, Bruce Cockburn, has a great line in his song, Lovers In a Dangerous Time...

"Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight.
You've got to kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight."

Thank you for the research you are doing. It will be worth it when people with intellectual disabilities sit in a courtroom and are heard, respected and given justice in times when they have been violated. Thank you. For now, however....take a break from the kicking and go do some hugging!!

Blog editor said...

Bleak as this work is, Dave, it is sorely needed. A case with several child victims ib South Australia was dropped just a few weeks ago because the prosecution did not think that a jury would accept the witness statements as credible, and no accommodations were allowed. I'm hoping they are getting ready for a change in legal process that will allow them to renew the charges, rather than having a criminal acquitted now and unable to be re-tried for the same offices. But we need the work such as you are doing to make that possible.

In the meantime, enjoy that break - how wonderful to have the family to turn to when you need them!


Dave Hingsburger said...

Blog Editor, I am aware of some groundbreaking legal work in England and if there is someone there looking for new, innovating and proven approaches in situations like you are describing, write me and I'll pass the information along.

Susan said...

Wow! Have an awesome weekend! And you can doubly enjoy it, because you really do deserve it...

Can't wait for the Ruby/Sadie stories. :)

MJ said...

This reminded me of an article I read awhile ago that was disturbing on multiple levels. Not only do people with disabilities have a harder time getting justice, there is evidence that they are targeted because they have a harder time getting help from authorities. Ugh.

Nan said...

Thank you for your research . . . and next time you are here in the 'wa, you gotta get the girls to a Propeller Dance class (and you come too! Kids classes are on Saturday mornings. Jess is a paid teacher there . . . . www.propellerdance. com And Jess & a small group of dancers is speaking at a TEDX talk here on integrative thinking.

Nan said...

oops left a space in where it shouldn't be. Its:

Maggie said...

Sounds like it's time for a hug break, all right. The article sounds like something I'd like to read, so I hope you'll publish a link or a citation when it's done.

The same text / different witness comparison you're talking about is one of the most fruitful ways to combat bias.

In my favorite case, one of the big-name orchestras in Europe had an applicant who was the son of one of their featured performers. Wanting to be fair to other applicants, the committee decided to each applicant behind a screen for the audition and not identify the players until after the discussion about their music.

One applicant was clearly better than the rest. The discussion centered on the power, dynamism, energy, and virtuosity of the musician, highlighting all the reasons why this was obviously the man for the job. Several on the committee assumed this must be the son.

But it was one of the women applicants.

Afterward they commented that, had they known this horn player was a woman they would never have accepted her, because each of them "knew" that a woman could not produce enough wind to play a horn with power, dynamism, and energy the way a man could.

The committee expressed its gratitude for being able to select such a fine musician without being blinded by their own bias. And now they conduct all auditions screened.

SO glad to see the amazing work you are doing! And so delighted that you can go get some Ruby time to heal from the depressing parts of it.

Noisyworld said...

I wish I had a brain scrub too Shan :)
Dave, I know this is horrible research but it really is needed, especially if you can come up with "reasonable adjustments" (the favoured term over here!) that make access to the justice system, let alone access to justice, a normal thing for people with (perceived) intellectual disabilities. If anyone can do it you can :)
I hope the Ruby and Sadie hugs give you the energy and inspiration you need :)

CJ said...

Yes, this happens and maddeningly so. I have a mildly developmentally disabled client who was was taken to a party by her cousin. She was given some punch spiked with alcohol, taken into the back field of the house and gang raped. She wasn't a "good" witness. After the rapists release, she had to face them daily at high school. Later, she was victimized by the school, who wanted to expel her after she reacted aggressively to a female student taunting her about the rapes. It appears the school is unaware of PTSD.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Nan, OK, I went to the site you recommended and am very excited about it. Can you email me so I can ask some questions, I think Ruby would love to attend this. I don't know if we can manage this this week, but call me so I can talk with you and get information for her parents.