Yesterday was a solemn day in the disability community. A center that provides services to people with developmental and intellectual disabilities was victim to a mass shooting. Disabled people are much more likely than the general population to be victims of violence and domestic violence. Though we don’t know the motive for this horrific event, the location is important in considering that disabled people were attacked.
Another way in which disabled people are victims of violence is through infanticide or familicide, where caregivers or family members kill disabled people and sometimes themselves to protect them from suffering. These people are influenced by the ableist society that says that disabled people are inherently broken and that their lives are filled with suffering and sadness. They want to not subject their children/family/friend from that suffering and so they kill them. This happens much more often than one would think and there are many examples in the news including a mother who strangled her 3 year old autistic daughter to death because she didn’t want to care for her anymore. Another example is a 82 year old father who killed his two developmentally disabled children, his dying wife, and then himself. His children had other people caring for them and they were happy, but their father was scared of what would happen to them as they grew older and he wasn’t around.
Though people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are more likely to be victims of violence, physically disabled people are victims too, especially of domestic violence. According to the CDC, 80% of disabled women have been sexually assaulted, and disabled children are twice as likely to be sexually abused. Approximately 5 million disabled adults become crime victims each year.
We must and can do more to draw attention to this issue, and to stop the horrific violence that faces all in the community. This is a literal life or death matter and our lives matter just as much because we are disabled. We are not worth less and we deserve to live and thrive.