These kinds of stories are horrifying, but I also wonder what causal readers and news-watchers think about them. It makes a difference how you interpret the problem:
- Do disabled people need more protection, oversight, and supervision?
- Is there something about care services and institutions that encourages abuse?
- Should families of disabled children be terrified by the “mainstream” world?
- Is it that people don’t really see disabled people as human beings?
- How many disabled people lack the capacity to stop or avoid abuse, and how many mainly lack the training and socialization to do so?
There might be some truth to all of these, but some conclusions are helpful, while others tend to lead to more problems, not fewer.
I’m very glad to see that The Guardian’s Frances Ryan has followed up the news story with an editorial that provides a framework for thinking about this. Note in particular her reluctance to dwell too much on the idea of disabled people being inherently “vulnerable.” What still seems to be missing is a broader discussion of abuse that includes non-sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is particularly heinous, but many of the same interpersonal dynamics and lack of basic supports feed into other kinds of physical and emotional abuse, too.