Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Remembering Autistic Victims of Domestic Violence

Vigil for George Hodgins, Sunnyvale, CA
Photo © Steve Silberman
The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, Not Dead Yet, and the National Council on Independent Living have set aside this Friday, March 1, to remember the lives of people with disabilities who lost those lives at the hands of their family members or caregivers. We understand that this is difficult statement to comprehend and that many people's first reaction may be to assume that such events are extremely rare. Unfortunately, such domestic violence is not unusual at all, even its most extreme form, the killing of a disabled people at the hands of their caregivers.

In its latest statistics from 1999, the FBI reported that children under the age of five in the United States are more likely to be killed by their parents than by anyone else; parents were responsible for 57 percent of these murders. But while the murder of a "normal" child is almost always seen as horrific -- recall the trial of Casey Anthony for the murder of her daughter, Caylee -- the murder of a disabled child or adult does not get reported in the same manner.

Almost one year ago, on March 6, 2012, George Hodgins, a 22-year old autistic adult in Sunnyvale, California, was murdered by his mother, who then killed herself. In the aftermath of his death, very little was written in the press about George -- the victim of the murder -- his life to that date or the life he did not get to lead. Most of the media's attention was focused on expressing understanding for George's killer. Because this simply would not have occurred had George's not been a "disabled life," members of the local autistic community organized a candlelit vigil for George and all other disabled people killed by family members.

On Friday, local vigils will be held in at least 15 cities across the United States. We urge you to attend a vigil if possible; our goal is to ensure that the tragic ending of a disabled person’s life is treated in no lesser a manner than the murder of anyone else.

A list of the major gatherings can be found here.