Category Archives: domestic violence
Please note that this list focuses on the murder of people with disabilities.
This list of October 2010 media reports about people with disabilities murdered or dying under strange circumstances is presented without commentary, but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing people may want to discuss about it in comments. I do not believe for a moment that this list is complete. It is sorted alphabetically by last name. Almost all links are to news reports.
Salvatore Agostino, 73, undefined disabilities, Tampa, Florida, October 20. “Upper body trauma”, Agostino’s store was robbed as well.
Zahra Clare Baker, 10, Deaf, cancer, prosthetic limb, Hickory, North Carolina, sometime after 9 October. As of this writing, Zahra’s body hasn’t been found.
Jessie Buchsbaum, 17, learning disabilities, Boyertown, Pensylvania, October 25. Jesse committed suicide after being bullied by classmates for being disabled.
Damian Clough, 12, autism and “learning difficulties”, Keighley, England, April 4, 2009. Died in a deliberately-set house fire. The inside handle on Damian’s bedroom door had been torn off. [More details about this case.]
Byron DeBassige, 28, schizophrenia, Toronto, Ontario, February 16, 2008. Shot by police in a confrontation over two stolen lemons.
Mario Eder, 55, spinal cord injury, speech difficulties, unspecified cognitive disability, Waianae, Hawaii, US, October 1. House fire.
Linda Gibbs, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, October 5. Hit by a car while crossing the street.
Brian Goh Kah Heng, 19, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, October 23. Severe internal injuries and bruises, ruptured spleen and severe injuries to his anus. The care center where Goh was living has since been closed.
Kevin Geyer, 19, undefined cognitive disabilities, Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, October 26. Shot in the back during an apparent robbery.
Francecca Hardwick, 18, “severely disabled”, Barwell, England, 2009. Mother killed herself and Francecca after years of bullying, police are currently being sued for not doing anything to end it.
Ernie Hernandez Jr., 37, “developmentally disabled”, Modesto, California, August 14. Stabbed to death.
Philip Holmes, 56, undefined physical disabilities resulting from a work-related accident, Rhyl, Denbighshire, United Kingdom, April 16, 2010. His body was discovered by his caretaker, having been “severely assaulted.”
Patrick Johnson, 18, “had the intelligence level of a 5- to 7-year-old”, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Died after police used a “stun gun” twice on him, after being called to assist the family.
Courtland Lucas, 32, heart condition & pacemaker, St. Louis, Missouri, May 25, 2009. Died in jail because he was not given the medication he needed to survive. Other cases of people with disabilities in prison not receiving the health care they needed are also discussed in the news report.
David Lauberts, 50, undefined disabilities, Greeley, Colorado, Sept. 25, 2009. Apparently died sometime before the house fire his brother set to hide the death, Lauberts was found to have bedsores that had eaten through to his bones.
Jonathan Lowbridge, 20, undefined psychiatric-related disabilities, Reading, Berkshire, UK, May 23, 2008. Lowbridge was a voluntary patient who was supposed to be under close supervision due to suicide attempts, he escaped from the hospital and killed himself.
Shannon McLean, 39, “a rare disorder that left her immobilized and in bed nearly 24 hours a day”, Caesarea, Ontario, October 3. House fire.
Wieslawa Zofia Pytlinski, 57, undisclosed disabilities, Knox County, Tennessee, October 4. She died “of multiple blunt force trauma to the upper body”, murdered by her boyfriend.
Donnie “Butch” Phillips, 50, “developmentally disabled”, Wilkesboro, North Carolina, September 29. Choked to death on an outing from his group home. His caregiver has been charged with second-degree murder.
Brian Sinclair, 45, “double amputee with a speech impediment”, Winnipeg, Manitoba, September 19, 2008. Died of a bladder infection while waiting in the emergency ward of Winnipeg’s largest hospital.
Jaffar Shah, “lost his legs in a car accident”, Nazimabad, Sindh, Pakistan, October 22. Shah, a disability rights activist, was shot while playing with his 2 year old son outside his home. His death sparked multiple protests.
Joanne Sexton, 56, undefined disabilities that included being hooked up to oxygen tanks, Springfield, Massachusetts, October 19. House fire.
Henry David Vernon, 55, “deaf, mute, developmentally disabled and mentally ill”, Tacoma, Washington, July 29, 2009. Hyperthermia while in a group home. His temperature had reached 107 F/41.7 C.
Leonard Alfred Willson III, 53, paraplegic, Bath, South Carolina, sometime in the week before October 7. Murdered. Two people have been charged in his death, one of whom Willson was tutoring in school.
Lemuel Wallace, blind and cognitive disabilities, Baltimore, Maryland, February 4, 2009. Gunshot to the head. “A year and a half after Baltimore police uncovered a murder-for-hire scheme in which they say two men conspired to kill a blind and mentally disabled man for insurance money, detectives believe they have found the man who pulled the trigger.”
News Reports regarding allegations of abuse in long-term care homes:
- Failing to prevent a Northwest Care resident with a known history of drinking potentially harmful liquids from doing it twice: first a bottle of floor cleaner and later a 1.75-liter bottle of mouthwash containing 26.9 percent alcohol. The resident was hospitalized after the mouthwash incident with a blood-alcohol level of 0.42 percent — more than five times the legal limit
- nadequately supervising group home residents, including three who were left alone at a community basketball game; one who was left in a hot, locked car and unable to get out while a staff member went shopping; and another who was found wandering in the street at 3:30 a.m. after a staff member had fallen asleep.
- Locking a Northwest Care resident alone in his room for two hours despite his reported screams to be freed. Investigators said the facility had previously used this type of discipline in violation of state law and had reversed the resident’s door handle so it could be locked from the hallway.
- M.C., 48, “mentally challenged” and schizophrenia, died after being raped, October 12, 2006
- In April 2006, a resident at a home in Lehigh Acres was admitted to a hospital with a facial cut and a fungal infection. He passed away soon after.
- In July 2006, a resident at the same property perished after choking on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
- In August 2006, a man living in another of the Campbells’ group homes in Miami expired of a suspected bowel obstruction two days after entering a hospital.
Trigger Warning for discussion of abuse and murder of people with disabilities.
This list of September media reports about people with disabilities murdered or dying under strange circumstances is presented without commentary, but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing people may want to discuss about it in comments. I do not believe for a moment that this list is complete. It is sorted alphabetically by last name. Almost all links are to news reports.
Joseph Abdo, 68, multiple sclerosis, Castleton Corners, NY. Died in a house fire.
Shah Amin, 19, “intellectually disabled”, Marsiling, Singapore, September 26. Found strangled in his hotel room after the body of his father was found in a nearby park.
Leosha Barnett, 17, epilepsy and undefined mental disabilities, Fort Worth, Texas, May 21. Starved by her mother and sister.
Jeffrey Bishop, 53, undefined physical disabilities, Louisville, Kentucky, sometime in the first week of September. Strangled by roommates/care-givers, who left his body in the basement so they could collect his disability cheques. [Indictment]
Kimberly “Kimmie” Daily, 16, developmentally disabled, Puyallup, Washington, August 17. Raped and murdered. A neighbour is charged in her death.
Payton Ettinger, 4, “mental and physical disabilities”, Greensburg, Indiana, May 17. Malnutrition and dehydration. He weighed 12 pounds at his death.
Earl Handy Jr, 39, Deaf, Conroe, Texas, September 24. Found dead in his cell from suicide. [He was in isolation to protect him because he was Deaf]
Ernie Hernandez, Jr., 37, “mentally disabled”, Modesto, California , August 14. Stabbed to death.
Gerren Isgrigg, 6, unstated “severe medical issues”, Wylie, Texas, April 15. Left exposed in a wooded area by his primary caregiver, his grandmother, he died two days later. “She felt like she was being punished by having to take care of the child.”
Albert David Jenkins Jr, 53, undefined disablities, Mobile, Alabama, May 2008. Shot in the back 7 times; the shooter plead guilty.
Reyal Jensen Jardine-Douglas, 25, undefined mental illness, Toronto, Ontario, August 29. Shot by police called by family for assistance.
Frederick Jones, early 20s, “outpatient care”, Kansas City, Kansas, September 3. Fatally shot at a gas station, died in hospital.
David Lauberts, 50, “developmentally disabled”, Greeley, Colorado, September 2009. His brother pleaded “no contest” to charges of criminally negligent homicide. Cause of death included “active caretaker neglect”.
Teresa Lewis, 41, “She’s not mentally retarded, but she is very, very close to it”, Jarrat, Virginia, September 23. Lethal injection.
Tia McShane, age at death unknown (would now be 11), cerebral palsy, Pensacola, Florida, remains found September 30. “A disabled child’s remains appear to have been found in a Pensacola storage unit, bringing a heartbreaking end to a month long search for a girl whose absence raised no alarm for years.”
Darren O’Connor, 19, partially paralyzed, South Tyneside, UK, July 7. He was discovered with breathing difficulties while in police custody and died in hospital.
Jeremy Price, 18, “had an IQ at the level of mental retardation” and had escaped from a mental health facility, Mattapan, Massachusetts, September 6. Shot by police officers.
Rylan Rochester, 6 months, “thought to be autistic”, Boulder, Colorado, June 1. Smothered by his mother.
David Skelly, 53, “learning difficulties”, Liverpool, England, September 14. Punched to death by an unknown assailant.
Rohit Singh, 7, “physically challenged”, Bathinda, Punjab. Hammered to death by his father.
Regina Wynn, 87, Alzheimer’s, Richmond, Virginia, Early September. Abuse and Neglect, she died in hospital with bruises on her chest, abdomen, arms, hands and on the front of her head.
John T. Williams, 50, deaf in one ear, arthritic, Ditidaht member of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations of Canada’s Vancouver Island, living in Seattle. Shot four times in the chest by police officers. [Hundreds Protest police shooting of Native American Carver, Here is a petition you can sign]
Two unnamed men, 87 and 83, “wheelchair bound” and “senile dementia”, Madrid, Spain, September 18. Died after being left in a hot van for 11 hours.
Content note: This post discusses a domestic violence case involving a woman with disabilities, and includes details on domestic violence apologism as well as threats made in the court room.
Disability and domestic violence are intersecting issues with very serious consequences. People with disabilities are more likely to experience domestic violence and we are also less likely to receive assistance. We may be afraid of reporting, we may not be believed when we do report, and when our cases do go to court, sometimes the attorneys supposedly prosecuting our abusers engage in domestic violence apologism.
A recent court case in England is a classic example of what often plays out when people with disabilities are abused and report it. Two pensioners were married for 37 years. In 2003, the wife1 experienced a stroke. Seven years later, her husband started abusing her, because he apparently decided that her disability was an ‘act.’
On May 9 at about 11am [she] was sitting at the lounge table doing some paperwork. Earlier she had put some logs on a woodburner. He came in and said was she trying to burn the house down and then hit her around the head three or four times. She grabbed the phone to call the police but he took it off her and threw it in the fire. She then left the house and tried to get in her car but he took the keys.
‘She got in anyway and locked herself inside. He then drove his car in front of hers to block it, not that she could get anywhere as she didn’t have any keys. She called the day centre and her daughter for help. After about half an hour her daughter and son arrived.’
The next day, she reported her abuse to social services, and it ended up in court. Here’s what the defense said about the husband’s actions:
‘He couldn’t get any help with her because where they live is so remote so they were stuck together and the frustrations built.’
This type of apologism comes up a lot. ‘She made me do it’ is a classic excuse used for domestic violence regardless of disability status, and with disability in particular, it’s very popular, evidently, to make claims that it was the disability that drove the abuser into becoming abusive. This naturally legitimises abuse, because while people condemn it on the surface, they secretly think things like ‘well, he was under lots of pressure’ or ‘I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a caregiver’ or ‘it must be so hard to have no help.’ Caregiver abuse becomes acceptable because, well, disability is just such a burden and it’s so hard and they didn’t get the services they needed.
Caregiver abuse doesn’t stop with cases like the one above. There have been a number of cases this year alone where caregivers have killed people and it’s reported in the media as a tragedy for the caregiver. Courts tend to return more lenient verdicts to abusers and murderers when disability is involved, because of ‘unusual circumstances.’ And people wonder why some people with disabilities are concerned about caregiver abuse. When abuse of people with disabilities is painted as something sad or hard for their families to deal with, instead of abuse of human beings, when caregivers are given lenient sentences because ‘the disability drove them to it,’ it normalises caregiver abuse.
It’s bad enough that the defense and, apparently, the court in this case thought that the husband was somehow justified in behaving abusively towards his wife because she was disabled. The prosecutor also had to join in:
That day when he told her off about the fire, she gave him cheek so he slapped her.
Where have I heard this before? Oh, only in every single reported case of domestic violence ever. Was it really necessary for the prosecutor to hop on the victim-blaming bandwagon too? When the media and defense attorneys constantly parrot lines like this, it reinforces the idea that some people just deserve domestic violence, and when the prosecution joins in, it, well, it makes me really angry.
Because, guess what? No one deserves domestic violence. No matter how much cheek or lip or sass or anything else is involved. No person deserves to be hit. No person deserves to be deprived of mobility. No person deserves to sit in court while the attorney supposedly acting in her interests suggests that, well, she kinda deserved it.
Oh, but this case gets worse.
The 68-year-old was ordered to pay £150 compensation to [her] but he told the court that, as they had a joint account, he would hand it over to her and she would simply put it back in the bank.
Economic abuse is extremely common in domestic violence situations, especially when they involve people with disabilities. The fact that this man openly admitted in court to the fact that he would do this shows me exactly how much contempt he had for the court, the law, and his own wife. And the fact that the court didn’t sit up and take notice is a sad but not surprising reminder of how often people turn their heads in the other direction in the face of domestic violence and abuse.
The victim has been relocated and, from what I understand from the article, is living independently with an aide. That’s the one bright spot here: Too often in cases like this, the victim is forced to return to the abuser.
- The news story names the individuals involved in this case, but I prefer not to. ↩
Building on what Chally talked about in her post about doing fine, I wanted to discuss some of the disability aspects of my recent semi-absence. Sometimes I feel like thinking about, reading about, writing about, arguing about, disability issues can become overwhelming for me. I feel that there are so many problems – ableist policies and laws and governments and businesses and people and attitudes and media portrayals and interactions and opinions and splainers. And a horrifyingly large number of instances of people with disabilities being abused and battered and humiliated and ignored and erased and dismissed. Each of those things seems like an immovable stone that fit together to form a wall that is beyond insurmountable.
Even thinking about everything that’s overwhelming feels overwhelming. (And this, of course, is part of the effect of the kyriarchy – to be so overwhelming and monolithic that it forces conformity, punishes people for differences like being a PWD, and places immense pressure on them to conform as much as possible to the norm.)
So when this happens, I notice myself avoiding disability related topics. I keep posts on disability issues unread until they start building up in Google Reader. I somehow don’t get around to reading that article or book on disability activism I had bookmarked. Someone I’m around in a casual setting says the R word and I let it go by. I pass as much as possible for TAB and neurotypical – even to myself. I just ignore disability – in general and mine specifically – as much as possible.
I noticed that my avoidance started right around the time I started working on a work project related to domestic violence. Working in that area always makes me aware of how many people, predominately women, are subjected to horrifying abuse on a daily basis. In the past, I’ve had the same kind of overwhelmed/avoidance response to feminist issues, when it feels that the patriarchal structure is too entrenched and too powerful to fight.
In other words, feeling vulnerable about domestic violence and sexual assault makes me feel like I cannot risk being vulnerable about disability, so I try as hard as possible to ignore it. I know that I am doing this to protect myself. But I do not like that protecting myself means ignoring disability issues or feminism. That protecting myself means, to an extent, ignoring part of who I am. Not just in the way I present myself to the world, but even in how I think about myself in the privacy of my own head.
That makes me angry. It makes me angry that retreating into my shell is coping mechanism brought on by the infinitely-headed hydra of ableism and sexism. It makes me angry that a necessary reaction to the frustration of engaging in disability activism is to take a break from that activism and to momentarily stop identifying as a PWD. (Or as a DV survivor. Or as whatever else is making me a target for kyriarchical oppression.) Basically, I get angry that the kyriarchy works, that even my efforts to stop being hurt by it are intrinsically shaped by it. That my life is inherently a response to it. That I cannot seem to exist outside of it.