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?

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