Sunday, February 03, 2008


I didn't realize until today that I've just finished a three sixty attack on the abuse of people with disabilities. On Thursday about 50 people with disabilities came and we had a wonderful time laughing and learning together. Though the topic is serious the workshop is meant to be fun. More than half the participants came up and did a role play, answered a question, or read something from the flip chart. Everytime someone participated the audience applauded. There were two or three women and one man attending who had a real need of the workshop and were fledgling at practicing 'no'. One young woman, came and quietly told me of having talked to the police about being victimized. She wanted me to know that she had taken charge. Had told the truth. "He told me not to say anything," she said, "but sometimes you have to break the rules."

She gave me such hope. Someone who was not rule bound but someone who was a rule breaker. Someone who had taken power back. Someone who refused to live as victim. She got it.

The day before I had done a workshop for teachers at a high school about the need for abuse prevention. To teach children in their care about how to become their own first line of defense. Teachers are notoriously a difficult audience, but these teachers, a few moments in - decided to listen, to take notes and to clearly look at their students. Clearly think about what their children needed. One teacher commented on the fact that they had put in a behaviour programme to bring the classroom under control and that the programme had worked. But that he'd been thinking about the 'real world' and wondering if they indeed were teaching what their students would need to know in order to survive the real world. He understood, for the first time, that 'control' was not what victors learn, he vowed to think differently, think about what he needed to teach. He got it.

Getting up on Saturday to go do a workshop for parents takes an act of mammoth will. At that point I hadn't realized that by doing workshops for parents, for people with disabiliteis, for their teachers and care providers ... the circle could either entrap an abuser or more hopefully engender power. Parents came in slowly, sitting as couples and looking over at me, bald, fat and in a wheelchair and wondering 'oh my ... I'm giving up a Saturday morning for him.' But that passed quickly as we found ourselves talking, asking and answering questions and laughing - flat out laughing. One mother talked about the fact that she had no idea about what education her son had had about sexuality, about abuse prevention ... she hadn't asked those questions. That would change, first thing Monday. She got it.

I fell asleep in the car on the way home. As I've gotten older, I like those moments where sleep creeps up on me and takes me over. Watching television and waking to a new programme. Looking out the window at Wyebridge and waking up driving into Barrie. I like naps on days when the work has been good. Where peace has settled on me, for the moment, and I rest waiting for the next day, the next fight, the next opportuntiy.

It's good.


Anonymous said...

A job well done deserves a peaceful nap. In order to go back into the trenches over and over the way you do would require the ability to take advantage of down time. When it seems that everyone wants a piece of you I think self nurturing is essential. Don't scrimp on it my friend.

Belinda said...

Ahhh, the sleep of the satisfied and spent! Well spent, I might add.

Anonymous said...

I am curious about your opinion on this case and the following write up I found on it.

The offender's history:

Write up by a social worker:

This case was likely made more difficult by the defendant's cognitive disability. People who are cognitively disabled and have the ability to imitate... often have a tendency to do what others do, imitating what they see.

So his abuse set him up to be an abuser from the beginning... because that's all he knew. You can't do the whole "do what I say, not what I do" thing with people with cognitive disabilites, most of them won't understand it. They learn by example, being shown how to do things.

This man was left with a childhood of witnessing and experiencing abuse, without appropriate help to teach him another way to deal with people. People with cognitive disabilities are abused much more than typical people. It's about 90% of kids with cognitive disabilities... versus the 20% or so of typical kids. They don't have a higher rate of being the abuser however.

I'm also guessing his attraction to younger boys stems from his actual mental age. He's likely about 6-8 years old cognitively, so that is where his attraction is. (Similar on a more serious scale, to the 19 year old guy who's attracted to the 15 year old girl because they are about the same maturity level.)

He has the sexual urges and hormones of an adult, but the mind of a child. Add in no one to help him understand it all.... you have a recipe for disaster. It is a challenge to try and explain adult things to a child living in an adult body... but it can be done. People just have to be willing to put forth the effort.

It's sad.... because stories like this add cognitively disabled people to the list of "monsters". Just one more group of people to fear, where only a small percentage really need to be feared. Just like Registered Sex Offender's. So many people think all Sex Offender's are child molesters and can't change... you'd be amazed the number of people who think the same thing about people with cognitive disabilities.

(In reality sex offenders, 90% of them never reoffend. You can be a sex offender for peeing behind a building, having consentual teenage sex, etc. Only 2% of sex offenders are the actual predators everyone is worried about.)

However, that said... this man should have been in a secure psyche hospital where he could hopeful get some sort of help. Or, at least where he would not have hurt anyone else. If he didn't comprehend what he had done of course he would do it again. I see no mention of Sex Offender treatment after his first charge. No mention of Sex Offender treatment anywhere actually. I think this also shows another issue.... the system doesn't know how to handle people with less understanding.

The only time I think the "lock them away" mentality is appropriate is in the extreme cases where the offender says "If you let me out I will do it again." It sounds like that is pretty much what this man tried to tell people but they weren't listening. If he was truly this much of a danger then yes, he should have been someone that he couldn't hurt anyone and could get help. Until he was determined to no longer be a danger to himself or others.

Joseph Duncan and Westley Dodds were other examples of repeat child offenders who were not remorseful or willing to get help. Joseph Duncan is another example of where a judge let out a defendant that never should have been released. Westley Dodds actually said "I better die because if you let me out I will do it again."

It's too bad that these stories only cause tougher laws, rather than ways to actually try and prevent or help the people in these situations.

Maybe someday, someone will actually get it.

Veralidaine said...

Yay for that mom who understood!