Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Do NOT Let Hate Crimes Against Autistic Teens and Children Go Unpunished

 It's 8:54 am. Do you know who your teen's friends are? Are you talking to your teens about the nature of their friendships and what goes on in them? Parents. We must stop being so eager to make our kids indistinguishable from their peers that we place them in situations of risk like the ones I'm about to describe below. One true friend is worth 100 false ones. More friends don't make your teens more social. Good friends do.

I believe in preserving the dignity of disabled crime victims, so this is was a very difficult decision. I chose to publish a photograph because sometimes people just don't get it when we say someone was beaten by bullies. Language, particularly the use of the word "bully" rather than "assailant", diminishes what happened by word association. This was a brutal assault. This was not bullying. This is an effort to bring this understanding to people. I'm stunned at all the people who have already seen the picture below and the other photos like it in national media outlets and social media who are not understanding that someone sustained serious harm in an attack by multiple assailants.

Gavin Joseph, a teen with an Aspergers diagnosis, was brutally beaten recently.
Gavin Joseph, victim of a brutal assault by a gang of teens in
Illinois credit NY Daily News

This was done by a gang of 5 teens. They were supposed to be his friends,

This abuse seems to be becoming a terrible new trend that came to national attention with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge assault on an autistic teenager. I don't know why this is happening but it needs to stop and quickly.

Here is a breakdown of the disturbing sequence of events related to the type of catastrophe that I am so concerned about.

1. Parents, desperate to make their neurodivergent teens "indistinguishable from their peers" push them into friendships with typical teens without following up and insuring that their teens are not being used as objects of hate and bullied. 

2. Other teens, pretending to be friends, subject the neurodivergent teen to sustained verbal and physical abuse under the guise of friendship.

3. As the abuse is not reported by the victim who is told by all that these are their friends, it escalates until a catastrophic abuse event occurs.

4. The perpetrators often brazenly record the event.

5. Parents discover the abuse and display video, photographs and other evidence all over the internet.

6. Police, in response to public outcry, pursue the perpetrators. The state and local authorities file charges against the perpetrators.

7.  No one explains to the victim's family that this is an escalation in what was a long period of abuse suffered by the victim. No one warns parents that the victim may recant or refuse to press charges for fear of losing the relationship with their abusers. Parents and the victims themselves seem to be unaware of the dynamics of abusive relationships, and that the wish to not press charges may be an indication of Stockholm syndrome (see definition below).

8. Where charges are filed no discussion of the fact that crimes of this nature against disabled people are considered hate crimes and should be adjudicated accordingly happens. Parents,  perpetrators, their families, even authorities may unconsciously or deliberately gaslight the victim until charges are dropped in exchange for "an apology, autism education/awareness, and autism related community service".

9. Parents never allow the victim to speak publicly either through written communication or with an attorney but instead speak for the victim. Victims are always convinced that the fault in the matter is their diagnosis. No civil case is pursued for the cost of the years of therapy and supports the victims might need. Because "autism awareness" is more important.

The wrongness of this screams at everyone, yet the public is fine with allowing perpetrators (who admit their disdain for autistic traits and use this as an excuse to assault them) to be set free to attack someone else's teen without being truly held accountable. That is not acceptable. This puts our entire community at risk. Because the next victim could be my son or someone else's daughter.

Gavin Joseph was beaten by those he thought were his friends, taught by these false friends that his autistic characteristics are so, to use his mother's description "creepy"  that if he is abused those who do so are just uninformed and must be educated, and then Gavin is allowed to believe that community service and autism awareness for others is more important than services he needs to navigate the world after becoming the victim of a crime.  Wow. Fail.

Parents, we need to insure that our teens understand that NO ONE has a right to do this to them. No
Lauren Bush, 17, pled guilty to sustained abuse
of another autistic teen in Maryland  she and
another girl not only tortured the teen but made
DVDs of the torture, which went on for years
one should be putting their hands on our people. My God what are these parents thinking? Their sons are assaulted and they don't allow the state to hold the perpetrators accountable. THIS IS A HATE CRIME. Assault against a disabled person because their disability makes assailants uncomfortable is a HATE CRIME. This is NOT the moment people choose to do autism awareness. These individuals will go on to abuse other disabled people and may continue to target other autistic victims. Worse, these parents failed to show their son that if someone harms him they will be held accountable such that they cannot harm him again.

This behavior on the part of parents of both the perpetrators and victims comes from a fundamentally ableist view that those qualities that make a person autistic are at fault for every negative event or criminal act against the victim. When parents allow the abusers of their disabled teens to walk free with an apology they are broadcasting a statement that disabled victims don't matter. The victim's human rights are violated, and their own parents are saying this is okay. Should parents of the perpetrators believe that this heinous crime against another teen should not merit jail time because the victim is disabled? No, I'm sorry. Disabled victims aren't less. If this were a teen without a diagnosis of Aspergers, if the teen were trans, or a racial minority, would they also be expected to allow the perpetrators to go free? Would this not be considered a hate crime?

Attorney and disability rights activist Shain Neumeier emphasized the problematic nature of a sentence of community service:
 "I was also really bothered by the element of the perpetrator having to do community service with other disabled people. One, disabled people are not punishment. Two, why should disabled people be stuck around a total (redacted) serving as his Get Out of Jail Free card?"

 Yet the media is spinning this story as if the victim taught his abusers a lesson?  Crimes against disabled people are now hate crimes for a reason. Sadly, these crimes are rarely prosecuted unless the victim is murdered, and the perpetrators often go on to target other disabled victims.

Thank God all parents aren't this oblivious to the impact this can have on our entire community. The parents of another autistic teenager who truly believed his abusers were his girlfriends did not back down, sympathize with the perpetrators, or blame the victim's disability and pursued charges against those who tortured and sexually abused him. Lauren Bush, his 17 year old classmate, and another 15 year old girl, presented themselves as his friends. He thought this torturing was friendship.  The parents' opinion differed from the teen's. He spoke to the press also, expressing why he did not wish to press charges and citing that one of the perpetrators said she was his girlfriend and this is why he submitted to the abuse. His parents expressed their disagreement with their son. But they respected his right to speak for himself, whether that be in verbal or written form or through an attorney, and treated him the way parents would treat any teen crime victim. They didn't speak for him even when they did not agree with him. But they also recognized that their son was the victim of prolonged abuse, and may not be aware of the impact this has on him. I also need to note that the perpetrators recorded the abuse, but we will never see it because the parents kept the recordings off the Internet.

It is up to us, every stakeholder in the autism and disability rights community to insure our people aren't abused like this anymore. We have to insure our teens get justice when they are the victims of violence and that what happened is not trivialized and spun as something to be forgiven. We have to work with our disabled disability rights activists and come up with a way to deliver a clear message to our teens and parents of what an abusive relationship is and we have to teach families to watch for the signs of abusive friendships before they escalate into the vicious assaults coming to light in the press these days.

Where are the voices of the disability rights advocacy organizations and the disability law centers on this topic? Whether the family or the local government wishes to pursue charges or not, the nature of these assaults should disturb people enough that someone should be filing a request the federal government pursue these incidents as hate crimes.

If the perpetrators were the parents, this would be front page news and everyone would have something to say.

 No experiment in socialization is worth victimizing ones children and having them assaulted. This is not a "teachable moment". This is moment you seek justice and show your teen they are people and have human rights. This is the moment one seek reparations for the years of therapeutic supports your surviving crime victim will need to overcome what was done to them. This is the time you seek family counseling for healing.

The saddest part about this is the trauma suffered by these victims will not manifest all at once. It will surface over time, and the victims will need intensive supports to overcome this. This should have been paid for by the assailants because they are the cause of it.

Disability rights, human rights, and social justice organizations.  Don't remain silent about these assaults and the rush to commute sentencing to community service and autism awareness. Please stand up for these victims. Help them.

Maybe we should take a break from yelling at the ignorant rants of movie stars who post photos that thoughtless parents themselves post publicly of their children's worst moments. Maybe we need a hiatus from arguing with the intractable ignorance entrenched in fear based parental groups fixated on proving the cause of their children's autism because they believe this will somehow miraculously solve everything. Maybe we should start doing work to mitigate this sequence of catastrophic events from happening to our people and insuring if it does happen someone is properly held accountable and the hate crime protections given to our community aren't just words on paper.

It is good that we mourn our dead and seek justice for the victims of murder by those they love and trust. Can we now fight for the living more too?


This post is dedicated to every autistic survivor of abuse, the autistic teens still being harmed out there, and the parents who stand with them.  Healing strength and love. Teens, don't be afraid of losing friends. Tell your parents or any adult you trust if this is happening to you.  kç

Special thanks to topic experts:

Shain Neumeier Esq.
Kassiane Sibley, Activist, Author, Topic expert We Are Like You Child Collective founder
Sparrow Rose Jones, Author, and blogger at  Unstrange Mind: Remapping My World
Savannah Nicole Logsdon-Breakstone, Activist, topic expert, blogger at Cracked Mirror In Shalott
Paula C. Durbin-Westby , Activist, topic blogger at  Paula Durbin Westby, Autistic

And all the survivors who bravely shared traumatic moments to help make this post better understood.


Why do victims of bullying not tell?

Why a victim might not wish to press charges or report bullying:
Children Are Less Likely to Report Bullying if They Consider the Bully a Friend

What do I mean by Stockholm Syndrome?
  1. Stockholm syndrome, or capture-bonding, is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with the captors.Stockholm syndrome can be seen as a form of traumatic bonding, which does not necessarily require a hostage scenario, but which describes "strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other."[4] i -
  2. Wikipedia


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  3. We as parents have to protect our children and adult children on the spectrum and with Autism. I hope he changes his mind for his sake and the sake of others and presses charges against the person or persons that did this to him. It is not ok to go up to anyone and beat them up because they are different and certainly because they have a disability. He and his family need a lawyer to back them on this and they need to pursue this, violent teens and people need to be stopped and punished! I am a mother of a son with Asperger's and I worry about this every time he goes out for a walk, it is a sad world we live in and letting this violent person get by with this is not helping anyone.

  4. It happens with a lot of young people, not just disabled, autistic people. The victims refuse to cooperate just as you say, and sadly, often when they do , their testimony not going to withstand court scrutiny. I still cry at how an attorney skewered a witness with cognitive and communication disabilities. Yes, for her and her family, it would have been better to have dropped. It. They didn't and they paid and continue to do do with the shunning. They should move, want to move, but can't afford to do so.