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Mona Pereth

Joined: 11 Sep 2018
Gender: Female
Posts: 6,614
Location: New York City (Queens)

28 Feb 2023, 4:12 am

March 1 is the annual Day of Mourning for disabled people who have been murdered by parents or other caregivers.

According to the relevant page on the website of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network:

In the past five years, over 550 people with disabilities have been murdered by their parents.

Every year on March 1st, the disability community gathers across the nation to remember disabled victims of filicide–disabled people murdered by their family members or caregivers.

We see the same pattern repeating over and over again. A parent kills their disabled child. The media portrays these murders as justifiable and inevitable due to the “burden” of having a disabled person in the family. If the parent stands trial, they are given sympathy and comparatively lighter sentences, if they are sentenced at all. The victims are disregarded, blamed for their own murder at the hands of the person they should have been able to trust the most, and ultimately forgotten. And then the cycle repeats.

Since 2012, ASAN and other disability rights organizations have come together at local vigils across the country to mourn those losses, bring awareness to these tragedies, and demand justice and equal protection under the law for all people with disabilities. On March 1st, we will come together again, and we ask you to join us.

Here in New York City, the local vigil will be held in City Hall Park. More info here.

Events in other cities can hopefully be found by googling "Disability day of mourning" followed by the relevant city.

- Autistic in NYC - Resources and new ideas for the autistic adult community in the New York City metro area.
- Autistic peer-led groups (via text-based chat, currently) led or facilitated by members of the Autistic Peer Leadership Group.
- My Twitter (new as of 2021)


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Joined: 25 Aug 2013
Age: 65
Gender: Male
Posts: 31,936
Location: Long Island, New York

25 Mar 2023, 9:42 am

'None of those were mercy killings': A vigil for disabled people killed by family - Los Angeles Times reprinted by the Longview News-Journal

In the Burbank chapel, as attendees braced to hear the names of the dead, Pastor Ryan Chaddick welcomed the sparse crowd with familiarity.

“I’m here tonight, and we’re doing this,” said Chaddick, dressed simply in black, “because for some reason in 2023 we have to say to the world that killing disabled people is wrong.”

It seemed ridiculous, he said, to even have to announce that.

“But as long as disabled people are killed for being disabled,” he said, “I will rage against the night and we will light candles as protest and we will cuss and we will pray.”

Roughly a dozen people had trickled into the Burbank church on that frigid evening at the beginning of March to mark Disability Day of Mourning. To hear the names of people killed by parents and other relatives or caregivers. To listen to poems, songs, and readings about the outrage of disabled people losing their lives to those who were supposed to safeguard them.

For the Lutheran pastor, like many others in the chapel, the horror of those killings hits home. He is an autistic man, diagnosed in adulthood. He is also the father of autistic children, one of whose diagnosis set in motion his own. And his own path to understanding his daughters and himself led him to rethinking things in his life and his church.

“All of us — um, pretty sure, because I know you, or I’ve talked to you — everyone here is disabled or crazy,” Chaddick, 38, told the attendees with a slight smile and a nod before the readings began. “Welcome.”

In the United States, people with disabilities are nearly four times as likely to be a victim of a violent crime as those without disabilities, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics analysis. And when they are victimized, people with disabilities are twice as likely as other people to suffer violence at the hands of a family member — including their parents.

More than a decade ago, Zoe Gross helped launch the annual, now-international event in reaction to the framing of news stories about one such killing. Gross, director of advocacy for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, was appalled by news coverage after the killing of 22-year-old Sunnyvale resident George Hodgins, who was shot by his mother, who then shot herself.

Autism — a developmental disability that can affect how people think, communicate, interact and process sensory information — defies simple generalizations. There is no one way to be autistic, but for Chaddick, it means he struggles to parse exactly what people mean when they say they are fine, he said.

He wears ear buds to the grocery store to cut down on the overwhelming noise. About once a month, he has to go to the post office to collect the mail that accumulated, he said, because he forgot or neglected to go down to the mailbox.

But as a kid, “I wasn’t collecting trains and putting them all in a line, so it didn’t compute,” he said.

The process of getting his diagnosis forced him to talk about the most painful and alienating moments of his life, he said. Chaddick remembers at one point saying to his doctor, “I feel like I’m trying to prove to you how disabled I am.”

“He was like, ‘Well, let me assure you, you are definitely autistic.’”

One of the gifts of being autistic, Chaddick said, is “sometimes I don’t know how to not say the thing.”

“Not having the filter that other people do,” he said. “Sitting in spaces with people that are uncomfortable.”

That includes the heaviness of Disability Day of Mourning. “It’s a hard thing to invite people to, because there’s a lot in American consciousness that says, ‘Whistle by the graveyard,’” he said. “We’re intentionally trying to say, ‘Please don’t whistle. Please just stay here.’”

“Unless we can confront ableism,” he said, “it’s going to continue to hurt everyone”.

Some articles say “the victim’s initials were this, or this was a girl of this age — that’s all we have to go on,” Gross said.

In the chapel, they were nonetheless recognized:

“Name unknown, age 5 months.”

“Name unknown, age 72.”

“Name unknown, age 6.”

Chaddick stepped forward again and invited the crowd, “as you’re able, if you’re able,” to come forward and light candles and plant them in containers filled with sand.

“None of those were mercy killings,” he said, before words seemed to fail him. “I have nothing else.”

As a singer strummed a guitar and sang “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” people began to trickle up to the front of the chapel. One by one, they lit candles and rooted them in the sand, building a tiny congregation of flames. A father walked up with his young son to light candles, then returned to the pew where they had been sitting, his arm draped around his child.

The screens that had borne the names and faces of the dead now lit up to show a person in a knit cap sitting in a car in Minnesota, reading out the words, “I am not a burden.”

“You were 9 years old. You had a life ahead of you. And then you didn’t. You were a person. Not a burden,” Emily Stoll, the former youth director at the church, read from the screens. “You were 24, or 10, or 15, or 40. All of you had lives ahead of you. And all of you were people, not burdens.”

The father who had attended the vigil with his young son was Konstantine Anthony, the mayor of Burbank. Anthony, who is autistic, said he had been attending Disability Day of Mourning events for years, and “unfortunately, every year since the vigil began, names have been added to the list.”

“It’s just absolutely devastating to know that there are still people in this world that consider disabled individuals as disposable,” he said.

Gross said the annual vigils have multiplied and become more accepted among a broader range of disability groups over time. At first, she said, it was seen by some as a controversial event, one biased against parents.

“Which I always found a bit confusing,” she said, “because I don’t take these parents that murdered their children, as representative of all parents with disabled children.”

The pandemic has also underscored the ways in which people with disabilities are devalued, she said. Disability rights groups were outraged last year when the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was “encouraging news” that the majority of COVID-19 deaths among vaccinated people were occurring among people with four or more comorbidities — those who were “unwell to begin with.” The CDC director later apologized, but Gross said the incident underscored a set of beliefs that “really has permeated all levels of society.”

“A lot of what we’re doing with Day of Mourning is trying to push back against an attitude that people have unconsciously,” she said, which makes it harder to fight.

Professionally Identified and joined WP August 26, 2013
DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity

“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman