Sunday, February 20, 2011

I just don't get it

I opened the newspaper last night -- the local section of the Los Angeles Times -- and read this headline:

Man who assaulted 3 disabled women gets 8 years

I'd heard about this horrific case more than a month ago and wondered then why it hadn't gotten very much attention. The convicted man confessed to sexually assaulting three "mentally handicapped" women at an El Monte, California day care center where he worked. He confessed to raping three women who were severely developmentally disabled, one of whom wore diapers. The eight-year sentence was "the product of a controversial plea bargain." The mother of the defendant said that she had gone to authorities the same day her daughter reported the assault to her, but the rapist was not arrested for almost a year -- a period during which he assaulted others. As part of his sentence, the rapist will have to register as a sex offender upon his release.

What the hell? 

I generally don't talk about such things on this blog -- there are many great blogs that I would call "activist" blogs -- those that admirably expound and explain and argue about the nuances of disability and disability rights. There's also the whole emotional aspect of things like this -- those of us who hand our disabled and non-verbal daughters and sons over to aides and teachers and therapists, etc. every day at school do so with what I imagine is about the biggest leap of faith a parent can muster. If we didn't take this leap and let our imaginations run wild, I think we'd keep our children locked up in a room at home. However, most of us have been stymied at least once, if not continually, by callous school officials who condescend to our fears and make lame assertions of how they know best. Here, in Los Angeles, at our local school, I've spent weeks arguing with Sophie's school about a new policy that would rotate the aides riding the bus with Sophie -- a "budget cut" that basically takes away the aide who I know and who knows her and replaces her with virtual strangers. When I objected, the school official basically laughed off my concerns, told me that the person would be "trained" by a school nurse (the same school nurse who works there for three days a week and who I had to educate about seizures when we enrolled) and that I would have "to trust the system." I have many friends and acquaintances that face equal frustration when they attempt to advocate for their children in many different venues, including inclusion and even basic medical care.

You know that expression "helicopter mom" and the whole parenting debate that circles it? Just like the tiger mom controversy, I tend to dismiss these cultural debates as a luxury for the elite, those who parent disabled kids or not.  I might contort my face into a mask of pleasant accessibility when even my friends bring it up, but my eyes are rolling crazily in my thoughts. But in reading about a man who gets only eight years in jail for assaulting three disabled young women, I'm going out on a limb and saying that those of us in the trenches have to damn well know how to fly a helicopter, too.


  1. I worry about Katie being sexually assaulted by a worker. I used to worry about men more than women until I realized that there are also women that sexually abuse people. That being said, I know that Katie is very strong, she's taken me down to the floor, and I don't think a person would get very far with Katie. I'd hate to think what Katie would do to an exposed penis. If the man survived it would be a miracle. At least that's what I hope for.

    How do you tell a two year old to be on guard for abusers?

  2. ARGH! There is no such thing as abuse. All caregivers and workers are carefully screened, highly trained and have my child's best interests at heart. I trust the system implicitly and all authorities who tell me so, day in and day out. Yes, absolutely...uh huh...

  3. oh god. awful.

    so glad you can fly a helicopter, dear elizabeth.

  4. I think you already are a pilot .... And a great one too .... And you are absolutely right to not trust the system. It's broken.

  5. I think our helicopter pilot licenses came with our childrens diagnosis. I think we all fear the same things with our non-verbal children. It's just plain scary.

    And seriously, 8 years??? Unbelievable. :(

  6. I remember when we decided to enroll Zoey into school,I struggled on so many levels handing her over to another for that 2 hours and 25 minues,but one of the most difficult things to release to another,was her diaper changing.I know that seems weird to some,but for me,it was huge.Still is.And when she contracted MRSA on her little bottom,the community type and not the hospital borne,it furthered my concern.But ... I have to release her and trust the "system" but quite frankly these stories terrify me.Not to mention disgust me beyond words.

    We talked last night about having non verbal children as related to expressing pain and illness and this,this is just another aspect of that topic that no one,unless you are knee deep in the trenches,can fully understand.

  7. Huge leap of faith is right. Keep up the good fight...

  8. The first time we leave our child into the hands of another is that first big leap of faith. Even if it is family. The first day we leave them to their years of education is a leap of faith...and having to trust this person to respect, care, nurture, encourage our child to their fullest ability. How many have failed in doing that? Too many. How many have violated a is too many.

    To assault a disabled person is the lowest of low and that person should be condemned to not live among the rest of us ever again. What of those who cannot speak of the violation? How can one ever trust another person to take care of ones loved one? How is it that there seems to be so many sick people now than ever before who get jobs that let them be predators?

    Why oh why? You said it took a year to bring charges? Shame...shame...yet we have to trust but most of all we need to trust our own consciousness.

  9. Yeah. Another wrongness that exists today and is there no end, ever?
    You're speaking out. You are educating us. Amen, Elizabeth.
    ALL people deserve to be safe. That is what we both wrote about today.

  10. it boggles the mind and crushes the heart.

    the injustices that not only occur but slink by...

    i am posting today in honor of josseline and the injustice of her stolen life.

    thank you for writing your words, and mary too....
    all people deserve to be safe.

  11. Indeed, what the hell? Eight years?

    As someone who works in the child abuse field, this is among my greatest nightmares.

  12. I work in the system and will be the first to tell you how effing broken it is.

    Eight years is a ridiculous response. Ack.

  13. Sometimes I am left speechless.

    8 years is ridiculously short for these offenses: 80 per would make more sense.

    Thank you for your outspoken outrage.

  14. 8 years is a reflection of how much these three women matter. Not much.
    And no, I don't trust the care of my tender daughter to "the system" --
    this is merely one of the REPORTED cases. The statistics are extremely grim.

  15. So, help me God - it's not only a fear for her sake but how I'd respond if such a tragedy every happened to my daughter ... (abuse of vulnerable people is sickening and prevalent). Agreeing with A, something that I don't usually do, there are probably many more incidences that go unreported.
    This "reflection of how much these three women matter" to an "I don't care" society needs to change and I have no idea how or if it's possible.

  16. Oh, that is awful!!! Like you I worry a lot about my SN daughter. She doesn't know a stranger and will try to go up and hug people she has never met. ARGH!! What a travesty that this guy gets off so incredibly easy!!

    Carrie T. - mom to 4 from Korea, including a daughter with SNs

  17. Horrible, horrible. I would comment further but I feel a rant coming on.

    You can really contort your face into a mask of pleasant accessibility while your eyes are rolling crazily in your thoughts?

    I SO need to learn how to do that.

  18. 8 years is about right. Having worked with abused children for decades I see shit sentences like this all the time.I know people get tired of my rants on this subject... i get tired of myself but here's a scenario. What if you had 3 wives of presidents, or three senators or three Monsanto officials all lined up in a hospital setting in temporary states of disability and all 3 were raped by this man. Do you think he'd get 8 years then? I can guarantee there would be huge media coverage, public outrage and a hefty sentence.

  19. I agree that this is appalling.But, unfortunately, typical. It was a plea bargain. Had the jerk not agreed, he may well have been acquitted, since testimony from non and poorly communicating victims will not go well in a court of law. The only reason he probably even settled for that is because he did not want to go through the publicity of a trial that would have exposed him for the worm he was, though, frankly, he just might have gotten off on technicalities, given the victims' inabilities.

    There has never been nor is a good solution about trusting others with a helpless person. There are too many careless, negligent, and, yes, abusive folks out there. The most trusted of guardians have come up , not only short, but downright criminal. Most abusers are family members, people close to the family and child, and trusted caretakers. Where does that leave us with those we don't know? Not in a good place.

  20. I don't really have anything to add.
    Other than my tired tired heart of late.

  21. This is horrific. I grew up in El Monte and I am not at all surprised that it happened there. The town is a pit of criminal activity and has probably gotten worse since I left. We moved to Glendora when I was 12. My mom used to work with the disabled. 8 years is nothing for a crime like this. The man should be given a life sentence. Done. Over.



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