Abuse upon the Developmentally Challenged

Even knowing the statistics and risk factors, sometimes the stories of abuse and neglect among the developmentally challenged children and adults are heartbreaking.

Developmentally challenged people are at four to ten times the risk of emotional, physical, and mental neglect and abuse than the general population. In some parts of the world, neglect and abuse may be the result of ignorance and superstition. But within the US, the vast majority of abuse is done by people close to the disabled person for longer periods of time than with others.

Two instances today reflect the atrocities that happen. In one, an Arizona non-verbal, physically impaired, and mentally challenged 29 year old woman gave birth to a boy child in an institution. Her caregivers and the rest of the institutional staff were shocked. They had no idea she was pregnant. Worse, it was clear she had been pregnant before although there is no idea what happened to that child.

DNA tests revealed she impregnated by Nathan Sutherland, one of her caregivers. At Hacienda Healthcare, this poor woman had been examined 83 times before the birth and no one detected the pregnancy, even as her body displayed all the symptoms and signs. This woman had been in long-term care since she was three. Her rape was violent and frequent.

Although Sutherland perpetrated the crimes, the staff was liable for not recognizing an obvious condition, particularly in the later stages. A GI exam revealed she had given birth. In check of her bed, the child was found. A $45 million dollar suit has been filed by her parents against Hacienda Healthcare and the State of Arizona. The child is being cared for by the woman’s family.

In today’s second report, Vernon Gray, a mentally impaired man with an IQ of 60, was lovingly cared for by his parents in their Seattle Central District home until their deaths in 2000. His mother died last, and Vernon didn’t know what to do with the body so he lived with it for several days until it was found.

Not knowing how to care for himself, the home became infested by about 500 rats. He didn’t know about bills, so the plumbing and electricity were turned off for a decade. Neighbors supplied food when they could but even so, he was reduced to dumper diving. The home became infested with garbage and feces.

Eventually the house was sold due to lack of paying property taxes. His parent had saved tens of thousands of dollars and rare coins, storing the funds in a suitcase in the basement which disappeared when the house was cleaned up for sale. Nathan lived on the street, not even knowing to go to a shelter.

At one point, a Social Worker reported that upon examining Vernon, she concluded he was not developmentally disabled and the case was closed. In 2017, the Police intervened after Vernon was discovered walking through traffic for the second time. He was unclean, covered in lice, and nearly blind with glaucoma. He was placed in a group home. His ad litem is seeking to buy Vernon’s home back from he present owners and getting round the clock caregivers so he can live his life cared for in the only home he knew.

Ninety seven to 99 percent of abusers to the developmentally challenged are people who are known to the person, whether family, friends, or caregivers. They are abused more frequently and for longer periods of time. They are four to ten times more likely to be abused than their peers. Seeking justice is something that doesn’t usually happen.

Disability/justice.org reports these individuals are less likely to get help for several reasons:

*They may be afraid they will not be believed, their self- esteem is very low due to the abuse

*It is easier to abuse a person if he is believed to be sub-human or less than the abuser T

*The abused live in isolated environments, in institutions, group homes, or personal homes where they still have limited contact with the outside world

*Abusers may perceive a person with disabilities as weak, vulnerable and less likely to report abuse

*The people caring for the person are often a small group of friends or caregivers providing essential care for basic activities of daily living

*People with limited abilities may find it difficult to report abuse

These two stories are perfect examples of the atrocities which face many innocent individuals who require on-going care and are not able to defend themselves against others and a system that often passes the buck, shuts down social service cases prematurely, and avoids having to deal with sensitive cases. This is an ongoing issue in our times and historically which demands our observance and action. We owe it to those unable to act for themselves.

A perspective on our current political climate.

This world has become such a frightening place. I used to go through my days paying scant attention to the machinations of the political sphere. I suppose I am an everywoman, like most in the keeping of my days. The world used to do a reasonable job of taking care of itself, or maybe I was just naive.

These days I pay close attention the ways of the world, in particular that of our governmental processes and the machinations of Donald Trump, our leader. It is hard to call him President when he acts so un-presidential and lacks an understanding of basic Civics.

Today is but another day in his dealings and a mild one at that. A critical talk with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Representatives ended abruptly when Trump walked out saying he wouldn’t address this issue as long as there were inquiries into his behavior and actions. One has nothing to do with the other.

The defining action of his Presidency is to be oppositional. There are Psychiatric labels which could easily be applied to him. Narcissism and Oppositional Defiant Personality are but two. Frankly, in my mind, he is the Anti-Christ. His mission seems to be to divide and conquer.

Not only that, but he seeks out dictators and calls them friends. Those who used to be our allies are being steadily alienated. He bullies the world, riling up adversaries, bringing them to the point of retaliation, just as he is doing presently with Iran. Anything that smacks of peaceful reconciliation gets smashed. Adversarial Rhetoric is the defining theme.

And he is seeking greater control of women’s bodies with the current thrust to overturn Roe vs. Wade. My body and mind are not his to control. One in four women will need an abortion, for any number of reasons, that is an incredible act of control.

Granted, Trump was never my choice. I live in a family which is completely Republican save for myself. I know not to speak of politics with them. I don’t understand their position nor they mine. But as he moves through his Presidency, I grow more scared. This world I know is being destroyed day by day, action by action.

There are real issues to address in this administration. Infrastructure, health care, education are just the beginning. With Trump’s adversarial stance with the Democratic House of Representatives, nothing is being accomplished. The vital issues of our day are laying unaddressed as bitterness, rancor, and opposition hold sway.

I have an elderly client who is just as scared as I. She heatedly says if she were healthy she would be inclined to assassinate Trump. She is of the opinion that it might be our only recourse.

I pray for an end to this political nightmare. We need decency and civil actions meant to uplift our society. Healing and regeneration are vitally necessary. The Anti-Christ must be somehow stopped from further destroying this great nation. We need to regain the trust of our allies and our citizens. Our Right and our Left need to come to a resolution.

I am not sure of the answers, but I know that getting rid of this President is an essential step to healing and forward, positive movement.

Abortion: it’s a Choice

Abortion is such a loaded topic. It raises the hackles of people no matter their belief system. For me, it is touching my inner core. As the fray roars across the political realm, I think about all the perspectives inherent regarding this issue.

I am pro-choice. I know that will anger some, turn-off others and validate still more. But my life choices are the result of my own experience.

When my ex-husband and I had been together for a year, he received the opportunity to transfer his work to California. We weren’t sure we would make it together but we wanted to try. However, an unplanned pregnancy rocked my world.

Alex didn’t want a baby at that time. He was influenced by his life in Romania when growing up. At that time, abortion was a chief means of birth control. His mother had had several. They were definitely of the opinion that I should have one. I was more unsure but logically it seemed the way to go even though my heart wasn’t in it.

As it happened, I cried. For months I mourned. For years, I could see that baby (a girl in my mind), growing up. I knew her personality. She lives in my heart.

When I became pregnant a few years later and felt my son stirring within, I fully understood what I had done, what the act of abortion is and cost me. However, I fully support my daughter’s right to have an abortion, even though she is not a supporter.

There are millions of women, 1 in 4 of which will have an abortion, even anti-choice people, who will need an abortion due to life’s immutable happenstances.

A recent study said the vast majority of people are either ambivalent or pro-choice. Twenty eight percent were pro-choice versus 19% who were pro-life. Abolishing abortion is a discriminatory act against women, particularly the impoverished, illegal immigrants and women of color.

Any way you look at this, it must be remembered that abolishing legal abortion, overturning Roe vs. Wade, will only send women scurrying to backroom practitioners.

For the young girl traumatized by rape or incest, trapped in a pregnancy she had no control over, abortion is essential. The mother of two, working three jobs to provide a thin existence to her children, can’t be forced to provide for another child she can not afford. The woman whose career is such that life isn’t going to support a pregnancy has to be able to make that decision clearly.

The preponderance of pro-lifers is men. I can’t help thinking that in their minds, abortion is somehow demasculinizing to them. But still, it is mostly the men who see fit to control women’s bodies. And the misinformation heralded by them is unbelievable to the rational mind.

To take an act of intimacy (or control) and subvert it, is not compassionate, kind, or noble. Will men begin to pay child support at the moment of conception? Will men be charged with murder or being an associate of same if they support their partner’s act of abortion?

Women do not take abortion lightly. It always has a cost emotionally, financially and physically. But there are times when it must be considered and acted on. The Alabama “law” has to be overturned. Women can not by sent to prison for a lifetime, doctors can’t be sent to jail for 99 years for conducting abortions.

The laws of the 14 states that limit abortion in some manner have to be wiped off the books. Women must have control over their bodies. The Supreme Court has an ethical responsibility to uphold Roe vs. Wade no matter what the political balance on the bench.

We have an inalienable right to control over our own bodies – both men and women. Noone has the right to control another in this sensitive matter. And we have an ethical imperative to give voice our beliefs, to not be a sheep in the silent majority.

Lord hear my soul

Precious Lord of my soul
I look to you in night’s web of darkness
and dawn’s sweet, soft light
in hope, in wonder.
In supplest nuances
and bold staccatos of sound
You exclaim your presence
again, and yet again

There You are
but . . .
how do I cross
the bridge of my unknowing
to meet you unwaveringly?

Silent moments slide by
An ocean’s worth
while I look and wonder
And question –

Who are you?
Why am I here?
And most important –
What use can I possibly be
to your purpose?

I am as lost
As one of your sheep
slow-witted and dumb
breaking from the safety
of your guiding presence.

As angry and suspicious
as Moses’ Israelites
only believing during blessings –
fighting, scratching, bitterly rebellious
until God’s plagues of rage
or bold strokes of divine intervention
shake them from their torpor.

I am no more
Than those ancient peoples
But – I trust
Just as the race itself was saved
So shall I be
As long as I believe.

Uncovering the Truth

What defines a person? Is it the outer world and it’s mirrored reflections of who you are or the inner, the secret places that are rarely aired?

So much of your life is shaped by the expectations of others. It is the rare person who can withstand the vagaries and inconsistencies of life and still hold on to what is true and imperative in her inner core.

You go through your days with blinders on the truth. Life seems like it’s going as it should but still a small voice inside mutters in discontent.

It may be noise from outside, from people who care about you. Or it may be inner sourced. Often it’s both. Like the song “Bolero”, it starts softly, barely perceptible, and systematic ally ratchets up the volume and complexity until it becomes a roar not to be dismissed.

We spin through our days barely making room to breathe. Coming to our bottom line may be too risky. Often it comes with costs that may be hard to live with. And sometimes the truth is buried so deep it needs a seismic event to unlodge it.

Once freed though it defies suppression. No longer content to take a back seat it demands acceptance, come what may.

Truth will out. What will you do with it?



When this world hurts me, and I feel trapped by the machinations of others, or the actions of society, or the political fray our country and the world lies in, the words of John Lennon’s song “Imagine” brings comfort. For weeks now, I have had no words to share, I have felt empty inside. These words matter to this world and are so much more than my trivial mutterings.

  • Imagine there’s no heaven
    It’s easy if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky
    Imagine all the people living for today

    Imagine there’s no countries
    It isn’t hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too
    Imagine all the people living life in peace, you

    You may say I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope some day you’ll join us
    And the world will be as one

    Imagine no possessions
    I wonder if you can
    No need for greed or hunger
    A brotherhood of man
    Imagine all the people sharing all the world, you

    You may say I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope some day you’ll join us
    And the world will be as one
  • Writer/s: John Lennon, Yoko Ono 
    Publisher: Downtown Music Publishing
    Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind

Shadow Play

Words are vultures
come to gnaw the last
bit of meat from bone.
They strip away
all reason,
the seductive embrace
of imaginings.
Words are a shadow play
where the figures cast
are illusions, and the
substance of reality
is overshadowed.

Words are binders
in the glue.
holding tight one object
to another, locked
in contracts non-negotiable.
Tread carefully
when words are spoken,
your soul is up for sale
and will be gone
if freely given to . . .

Dealing with Difficult cases

Being a caregiver can be both draining and uplifting. The people I work with are often fragile. They have damaged bodies and/ or minds. Some have broken psyches. Yet it is a precious thing when you know you have made a difference one day at a time.

Working with the family can be challenging. They have expectations and different perspectives than you. This creates confusion and frustration at times. As an example, yesterday was my last day on a difficult case. The man had PTSD from his time in Vietnam. He had also lived alone for many years and had developed some antisocial habits.

This man was noncomplant with his medications and virtually every other activity of daily living. He had mannerisms that were offensive. He repeatedly spoke about wanting to die. Depression was evident. He is a heavy smoker. His mind couldn’t get past his difficulty walking due to a stroke. Not only that but he had Obsessive Compulsive behaviors. He was reactionary to most situations. His mind would get caught in a loop, circling around his mobility problems, focusing on the negatives, unable to see solutions, only concerned with his leg and his inability to walk independently.

As a caregiver, this case demanded fortitude and endurance. His Power of Attorney loved this man but didn’t see some of his more offensive behaviors. The chain of information was sketchy. For instance, she was upset because she thought I was complaining about the fact that that he hadn’t taken his medications and thought it was me who complained. She was told it was my last day and was upset. She reacted to the continuing medication issue. I hadn’t raised the issue that day but the physical challenges of not taking his medications was evident.

She was also upset that I didn’t make food for him, bring it to work and go food shopping for him on my own time the way another aide did. Mainly she was upset I was leaving when the client was happy with me. She was also upset I charged mileage even though it was stated in the contract.

It is rare that I give up on a case. I tend to like the people I work with. But I am learning it is okay to occasionally be selective. I need to do what is necessary for myself. And I have learned my needs have to come first because at the end of the day, I need to feel I have been a force for good.

I am not a quitter as a rule. I was on one case for 3 1/2 years where the Alzheimer’s affected woman would become violent when she didn’t want to do something like taking a shower. I loved this woman and was with her until her death.

However, I have learned there are always other caregivers to take over. I am not the only person who is competent. And I am more effective if I am happy in the case. I am less likely to suffer burnout if I feel like I am making a positive change. I always give my best, but life is a lot easier when you want to be where you are. Knowing your limits is essential. It is something I had to learn the hard way.

Staying Motivated when stuck

Lately I have been going through a period of indecision and lack of creativity. It is truly annoying and frustrating. I have been filled with discontent with my writing. My perennial insecurity has weaved itself into the fabric of my days. I don’t know about you but when I go through this period of abject moroseness I loose hope for a writing future.

I have spent my life battling insecurity. In the past few years, I have grown into myself, accepted myself for the person I have become. There have been many days of contentment. It was been wonderful coming from a lifetime of self-hate.

The problem with contentment is, for me, it doesn’t necessarily translate into productivity. Then, switching into a time when self-assessment is not that favorable, it is stressful and unproductive. I worry about the blog, whether I have lost it, if I can really move into content writing for a living.

Now I am waiting for the tide to turn. I went away for a few days to recharge. Hopefully, that will help although this morning it doesn’t seem to have. So please hang in there. I’ll get better. I worry about consistency in to future, whether my moods will determine whether I can work or not, but I also know this too shall pass. Be patient, something I need to learn for myself.

Listening when you need to be heard

“You are a great listener” she said. It is true, I know the value of listening but not always for the pleasure to hear. Sometimes I listen as the words clog my throat, choking me, dragging me into an abyss my placid exterior belies. I want to be there for the other person, but my need to be there for myself goes unobserved. A straight jacket encloses me – tight, threatening, suffocating.

As a caregiver, I spend much of my days listening. People need to be heard, especially those who live lives of silence with no one to hear them. The elderly have so very much to share. They are wise in the ways of the world. I love hearing them share their histories, to match the history to the person speaking it is sometimes incongruous and always insightful.

But then there are times when the words impatiently wait their turn but my voice box doesn’t work well enough to share them. I go through long stretches of time when I can’t speak my feelings. It is frustrating and anxiety producing. My lungs concave, the words lie restless and smoldering.

Some words will continue to lie unobserved. They would threaten relationships and circumstances. It is lonely and disheartening. I may smile and nod my head in approval but within I am churning. I crawl into my bed and pet my cat in mute appeal.

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