Brit tabloids focus on man who pushed boy off balcony autism

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ASPartOfMe
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28 Jun 2020, 3:15 am

Stop focusing on Jonty Bravery’s autism – it’s putting children like mine at risk

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“Autistic Jonty Bravery ‘frequently assaulted’ his carers and had been arrested” ... “Autistic Jonty Bravery was in council care but ‘frequently assaulted’ his carers”. I’m quoting from a tabloid newspaper, which felt the need to repeatedly remind its readers (on separate occasions) that “autistic” Jonty Bravery is, you got it, autistic.

Bravery is in the news because he did something unimaginably terrible. He pushed a six-year-old boy off a 10th floor balcony at the Tate Modern in London. The child survived, but still uses a wheelchair as a result of his injuries. Bravery has been jailed for 15 years.

The events in question are every parent’s worst nightmare and I don’t propose to play the role of unnecessary addition to Bravery’s defence team here. What troubles me, as the parent of an autistic child, is the way that story I used as an example, and others, have zeroed in on that one aspect of Bravery, putting it front and centre. Autistic thus becomes code for violent, scary, murderous.

As Jane Harris, director of external affairs at the National Autistic Society, says: “It’s important to remember that the vast, vast majority of the 700,000 autistic people in the UK are law-abiding – sometimes particularly so because of a propensity to know and stick to the rules.

“We know many autistic people and other supporters are worried that the high-profile nature of the case could risk warping public understanding of autism.”

Just so. I greatly fear the impact on my son if increasing numbers of people latch on to the word “autistic” and use it as the basis for taunts or worse.

That is an all-too-real danger with secondary schools, where differences are frequently singled out and used to demean and bully. He’s already heard the phrase “that’s a bit autistic” used by other pupils in a pejorative fashion.

He also found a twisted comment below one of the articles covering Bravery’s misdeeds in which some vile creature had suggested it be made legal to hunt autistic people for sport. Others just said they should be made subject to the death penalty.

You know what? It’s the “normal” people who swim in that sort of swamp that scare me. It isn’t just in secondary schools where this sort of thing has a real-world impact. It gets picked up on by officialdom too.

People on the autistic spectrum can exhibit challenging behaviour. With the right care it can be managed. But the right care can be extremely difficult to obtain. It’s often so bad it doesn’t deserve to be described as such.

The case of Bethany, an autistic girl locked up for 24 hours a day without human contact, recently became a cause celebre thanks to the campaigning efforts of her father.

It even drew a vanishingly rare apology from health secretary Matt Hancock, in response to which Bethany’s dad has since tweeted: “This isn’t and was never just about Beth.”

With good reason. Some 80 civil society groups and experts last year provided evidence on cases like Bethany’s for a report by Redress, an organisation that seeks justice for torture victims. A whole chapter was devoted to torture in healthcare settings.

When a tragedy like the one at the Tate occurs, and when it’s explicitly linked to autism, it feeds into a baseless narrative that equates “autism” with “dangerous”. It feeds into risk assessments that say the only way to deal with autistic people is to lock them up and throw away the key.

The court hearings have suggested autism may have played a role in Bravery’s behaviour. But he had other conditions too. As Harris says: “It would be wrong for us to speculate about what led to this particular tragic case.”

I understand the construction of news stories. Reporters have to convey a lot of information in a limited number of words to a tight deadline. This can lead to an overreliance on convenient shorthand. Bravery’s autism was also cited in the trial, which makes it relevant to reports on the case.

But the media and society need to take care. Autistic people like my son are now being put at risk, people who are far more likely to be victims of crime rather than the perpetrators of it, not to mention the victims of inadequate care. That may have played a role in Bravery’s case too.


Any of our British members getting blowback from this?


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29 Jun 2020, 3:38 am

In Australia we had a similar issue in the reporting of Eurydice Dixon's murder - the guy's autism was widely reported, and in particular how obsessional behaviour can be associated with it.
These kind of selective half-truths can be really harmful to autists in general.



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29 Jun 2020, 1:58 pm

So he threw a 6 year old boy off a building and is jailed for it, good. Dangerous people need to be kept locked away so they can't hurt anyone. Those who take care of them better be getting paid good money because they are putting their lives are at risk and they are sacrificing themselves.


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vermontsavant
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29 Jun 2020, 2:33 pm

We resent people who make autistic people look bad any time a person with autism commits a crime it's a natural reaction of people on here to not want the persons autism made an issue of.Because this embarrasses us.

Some people living with the most severe types of autism are so tormented that there driven to due very bad things and for some of the most tormented autistics,there autism is an issue even if we don't want to hear about.


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League_Girl
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29 Jun 2020, 5:25 pm

vermontsavant wrote:
We resent people who make autistic people look bad any time a person with autism commits a crime it's a natural reaction of people on here to not want the persons autism made an issue of.Because this embarrasses us.

Some people living with the most severe types of autism are so tormented that there driven to due very bad things and for some of the most tormented autistics,there autism is an issue even if we don't want to hear about.


If someone's autism is so severe it makes them not able to control their impulse, they should still be kept away from the rest of the world. Also that man was clearly high functioning because he managed to go to the location himself and he wanted to be on the news so he picked some random child and threw him off. Why he had a caregiver is beyond me so this was obviously planned. Not some lack of impulse control. I also recall reading he had more going on than just autism. Maybe he has ASPD. I think 15 years is too short.


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Wolfram87
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29 Jun 2020, 5:29 pm

Apparently, he googled around about how autism would influence his sentencing before going through with it. Kind of makes you wonder what his conclusion from reading the internet was.


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29 Jun 2020, 7:37 pm

No blowback for me, but outside of the internet only family/stepfamily/GP/surgery nurses/pdoc/mental health nurses know I'm on the spectrum .


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vermontsavant
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29 Jun 2020, 8:41 pm

League_Girl wrote:
vermontsavant wrote:
We resent people who make autistic people look bad any time a person with autism commits a crime it's a natural reaction of people on here to not want the persons autism made an issue of.Because this embarrasses us.

Some people living with the most severe types of autism are so tormented that there driven to due very bad things and for some of the most tormented autistics,there autism is an issue even if we don't want to hear about.


If someone's autism is so severe it makes them not able to control their impulse, they should still be kept away from the rest of the world. Also that man was clearly high functioning because he managed to go to the location himself and he wanted to be on the news so he picked some random child and threw him off. Why he had a caregiver is beyond me so this was obviously planned. Not some lack of impulse control. I also recall reading he had more going on than just autism. Maybe he has ASPD. I think 15 years is too short.

I wasn't saying he shouldn't be punished severely.I was just addressing that people here don't like autism made an issue of in criminal matters because they feel it makes them look bad.


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carlos55
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30 Jun 2020, 3:05 am

When I was in my mid teens I got suspended from school & got in trouble with the law a few times all for criminal damage.

I hated school, hated everything (including shamefully my own family) but mostly hated what was going on in my head at the time. I suppose the breaking of things was my way of expressing my anger at the time.

I always knew the difference between minor juvenile bad behavior and evil though, but would an even worse environment meeting the wrong people a worsening of my symptoms driven me to do worse things maybe...

That’s probably a major difference between aspies and the old autism we do have an increased potential to do bad stuff and are probably more likely to because of the turmoil in our heads.



Gentleman Argentum
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30 Jun 2020, 6:41 am

carlos55 wrote:
When I was in my mid teens I got suspended from school & got in trouble with the law a few times all for criminal damage.

I hated school, hated everything (including shamefully my own family) but mostly hated what was going on in my head at the time. I suppose the breaking of things was my way of expressing my anger at the time.

I always knew the difference between minor juvenile bad behavior and evil though, but would an even worse environment meeting the wrong people a worsening of my symptoms driven me to do worse things maybe...

That’s probably a major difference between aspies and the old autism we do have an increased potential to do bad stuff and are probably more likely to because of the turmoil in our heads.


Sadly I had a similar experience in my teens. I think Aspies are maleable, able to be shaped by those around them. In my case, the boy next door was a delinquent, actually both sides of my house, delinquents. Mainly stealing, vandalism, alcohol and that sort of thing. However were they Aspie? I do not know, it has been too long ago and back then I didn't know anything about autism.

I would say in reaction to you, I do not know. I hope that is not the case. Wikipedia doesn't think so. At any rate I think as in all cases, it depends on how you are raised, people you hang out with. Someone with strong empathy may do bad things to fit in with a gang or use their social awareness to manipulate others and hurt them. Just because someone has emotional intelligence does not mean they use it for good!


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30 Jun 2020, 6:47 am

League_Girl wrote:
vermontsavant wrote:
We resent people who make autistic people look bad any time a person with autism commits a crime it's a natural reaction of people on here to not want the persons autism made an issue of.Because this embarrasses us.

Some people living with the most severe types of autism are so tormented that there driven to due very bad things and for some of the most tormented autistics,there autism is an issue even if we don't want to hear about.


If someone's autism is so severe it makes them not able to control their impulse, they should still be kept away from the rest of the world. Also that man was clearly high functioning because he managed to go to the location himself and he wanted to be on the news so he picked some random child and threw him off. Why he had a caregiver is beyond me so this was obviously planned. Not some lack of impulse control. I also recall reading he had more going on than just autism. Maybe he has ASPD. I think 15 years is too short.


I agree on the sentencing part, however the judge said 15 is a minimum, life-long internment is her actual sentence. So there is a possibility if he got cured or something he might be released after 15. In general, I find U.K. criminal law too lenient.

Personally the crime horrified and repulsed me and made me think he was possessed by a demon. It is like in a horror movie. I know one thing, if a similar crime were on my conscience, I would want to die. I think capital punishment does have a place, I know that is a minority opinion these days and is not law in the U.K., but it is a way to offer something up to the victims and try to help them get on. At this point I don't think the criminal has much future or possibility, really it is better to just start over in another life, it would be a mercy not to mention save money.


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