Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Can She Feel?

Horror, yes. Disgust, yes. Surprise, no. Like many of you, when I heard that in a Los Angeles court an expert testified that a 9 year old girl with an intellectual disability would not experience trauma because, essentially, the less intelligent you are, the less trauma you will experience. Further he stated that, even though this girl was repeatedly assaulted her disability was a 'protective factor' regarding trauma.

While many people have written, powerfully, about the implications of his testimony and the outrageous contention that people with disabilities don't experience real trauma and emotional pain. I am astounded that this guy even got to testify at all. The acceptance of the question, "Do people with intellectual disabilities experience pain and trauma?" or more bluntly, "Would a 9 year old girl, with an intellectual disability, who is repeatedly sexually assaulted, against her will and without her consent, by a non-disabled peer be able to experience trauma?" is the real outrage.

Does the existence of this man's testimony, no matter the content of the testimony, mean that there is a QUESTION about people with disabilities ability to feel emotional pain, to suffer from trauma, to be hurt by rape or abuse?

Does the sheer fact that and expert was called in to give an opinion, informed or not, about people with intellectual disabilities being fully human and capable of having a fully human response to pain and violation and purposeful hurt mean that there is enough doubt about this fact for there to be a NEED for an expert witness?

Beyond being horrified at what he said, I am horrified that he was there at all!

That someone thought that disability was a 'protective factor' against being hurt and traumatized.

That the presentation of people with disabilities as slightly less than fully human and completely unworthy of being considered victims happened in open court - disturbs me.

I do not have data.

I have experience.

I have seen people with intellectual disabilities weep with anguish when a parent, who'd promised to visit, doesn't show up.

I have seen people with intellectual disabilities heartbroken when they've experienced a break up with a boy friend or a girl friend.

I have seen people with disabilities suffering deep, deep trauma after having been victimized by a staff member.

It never struck me as odd, these things.

I never thought to say, "Hmmmm, I'm surprised at the upset because their disability should be a protective factor in them understanding and therefore reacting to what happened to them.

Like, never.

Ever.

That others do ... terrifies me.

Yet, outrage ... where is it?

12 comments:

Deb said...

Thank you for providing a link to the article relating to your post today. This was the first I had heard of it. It made me sick to my stomach. Based on the jury reaction, it appears they completely discounted his garbage theories and sent a very clear message, by awarding her a significant amount of money. He should be fired and not allowed to practice, anywhere.

j.proulx2 said...

I had not heard of this either, total disgust :( I will repost but not sure what else to do? :(

clairesmum said...

our American fascination with celebrity has gone to his head. He is apparently well known as an evaluator in the LA area courts in custody disputes, and won an Emmy for his role on a short lived reality show. The willingness to say something that will benefit whomever is paying you to testify is a weakness in the American court system of using 'expert' witnesses, when we confuse 'famous on TV" with "expert".
My hope is that this extreme statement will invalidate his 'expert' status to some degree, and perhaps the state licensure board might be moved to investigate.

wendy said...

I'm just shaking my head in dismay.

Ron Arnold said...

I was going to send you a link to that article when I read it. Not surprised you caught it. I shudder to think that this 'professional' Katz is given any credibility by the court - or even remains in a position to maintain their influence as a 'professional.'

From the article: “The jury was offended, they were disgusted and they thought it was unbelievable that an expert witness could come in and say something like that,” Ring recalled to KPCC.

So they awarded over $1 million to her instead of the paltry amount her lawyer sought. Nice bit of outrage right there. Hopefully Katz won't be on TV anymore.

Dude's an 'educated' turd.

Anonymous said...

Outrage isnt worth wasting on people who arent even making sense to begin with. Plus he claims that the childs traumatised behaviour 2yrs later isnt down to the assaults because they didnt affect her, its down to not having a father and having an intellectual disability. Because both those things are clearly more traumatising to an intellectually disabled child than being "repeatedly sexually assaulted".

This guy destroys his own credibility by just speaking, theres no need for objections to him but its a shame that a big deal wasnt made of the jurys response to his statements. Celebrating that publicly wouldve made their powerful message even more powerful.

Andrew said...

Sadly illustrates the level of wrong --- and yes, evil --- that we're up against. And "where is the outrage", indeed.

Rickismom said...

I am inn absolute SHOCK that anyone would claim this. Ricki was certainly aware and affected by the actions of those around her. [To this point: My husband used to drink heavily, and when he did we wore sunglasses. She did not like his behavior then, either. FIVE years later, I bought myself a pair of sunglasses, and Ricki SCREAMED at me: "You will not wear them!" (I did anyway, after an explanation.....)

At least the jury had some common sense

Anonymous said...

How does that guy get called an "expert"?? How gross.

--Littlewolf

just me said...

This is the exact same rationale used to promulgate growth attenuation or "the Ashley X treatment", whereby young children with severe combined physical and intellectual disabilities are surgically and chemically kept small. "What they don't know, can't hurt them" is the general assumption. I find it very interesting that the courts found the wherewithal to be outraged in this particular situation, but have utterly failed to make a similar connection with regards to g.a..

Anonymous said...

I agree that it is devastating that the question even is asked. But I know that the belief behind the question, that those with disabilities are "less than", is deeply ingrained in our society.

A young man I know and love was badly beaten one night in his bed in a group home. Another resident entered his room in the night and physically assaulted him. His torso and arms were deep black and blue 2 weeks after the attack. I first heard about this when I picked him up for a visit. About a week later, the staff phoned me to ask if I could shed some light on the behaviour the young man. He was crying, hitting out, trying to bite, etc. They did not understand why he would be acting this way. It never occurred to them that he was living in the same house as someone who assaulted him and that this might cause him anguish. I asked "if someone came into your room in the middle of the night and assaulted you, how would you feel if you had to sit beside him at the dinner table? Would you feel safe?" This came as a surprise revelation to them.

Ron Arnold said...

So - I went back to the article to share this with a colleague. I discovered something though. This is cut / pasted directly from the article:

"“There’s a relationship between intelligence and depression,” Katz replied. “What happens is the more you think about things, you can ruminate, you can focus on things, you can look at the complexities of the matter and become less depressed.”

“So because she may be less intelligent than a general education student, she’s going to suffer less depression because of it?” Ring pressed.

“Very possible, yes,” Katz insisted."

Either there was a serious typo or omission in the first quoted paragraph - or Katz was seriously misunderstood.