Deconstructing the self-righteous – when parents try to kill their children

deconstructI keep seeing some disturbing responses to the Kelli Stapleton case and I thought I’d address a couple of them today… a sort of, let’s clear the air, type of post.

Without wasting too much time, let’s get right into it.

Copycat Crimes

In a recent statement from ASAN (Autistic Self Advocacy Network), they condemned Dr. Phil’s interviews with Kelli Stapleton stating “We see a pattern of copycat crimes whenever there is a well-publicized case of a parent murdering, or attempting to murder, their disabled child … Dr. Phil had an opportunity to shut down this cycle of violence, and instead he chose to perpetuate it, as loudly and widely as possible.

I have long seen many people get adamantly upset any time anything to do with autism is portrayed negatively in the media. Whether it’s adults that still behave as children, needing parenting for life or children behaving violently, no matter the situation, if it “makes us look bad”, the media is the bad guy.

I wonder though, where were these people when mothers were murdering their children that didn’t have autism? How come no one screamed about the risk of copycat crimes when these mothers killed their children?

I don’t know if you noticed or not but those stories are from 2014 alone and that’s not nearly all of them. Where’s the outrage? Why is there no one calling for the end of the journalists that reported these stories?

In our efforts to protect children with autism, do we now not care about any child that doesn’t?

There are more of these murders every year than there are months on the calendar but one murder attempt on a child with autism in the last year and suddenly we fear copycat crimes? No, we fear our own public image being damaged, nothing more.

The truth is that media attention is good. Whether your stance is that there should be more services (this will convince people of that) or if your stance is that she’s a monster for trying to kill her child (this will convince people of that too), media attention is not what leads to another tragedy like this, doing nothing is.

We must focus on figuring out how to prevent all of these stories from ever happening again. And crossing our fingers and hoping that no one becomes a copycat is simply not going to do it.

How can anyone sit there, in their big self righteous chair, and claim that a “copycat crime” is our biggest concern? How can anyone honestly sit there and try to tell me that the last mother to attempt to murder their own child did it only because they saw someone else do it on the news and thought “hey, I can do that!”

No, either

  • A – they are totally out of their minds, in which case, it was just going to happen no matter what or
  • B – they hit rock bottom and saw no other way out and don’t care in the slightest what any other mother has ever done. They just don’t.

Copycat crimes are not what this is about. It never was.

If you’re really worried about this happening again, let’s talk about real ways to prevent this from ever happening again.

Which leads me to…

Murder is never OK

I keep hearing this and as a statement on it’s own, I agree. However, this statement is a precursor to the rest of the intended message which is “now is not the time to discuss a lack of services or support or funding.”

I have one simple question then, when is the right time? During the lull between the last attempted murder and the next one? Or after the next one? Or the one after that? Do we look around and go “What? Too soon?”

Let me put it another way, if we never get around to discussing how we can lend help to the next parent that is reaching the end of their rope, for what ever reason, are we partially to blame? Well, no, I suppose not since “murder is never OK”, right? We can wash our hands of all blame.

I’ve seen it go even further than that. I’ve witnessed good people be verbally and brutally torn apart for so much as suggesting that they think events could have played out differently if the support had been there. I’ve seen people be accused of the most horrid and vile things simply for suggesting that they have it rough too and understand how someone could reach the point of murder/suicide.

Now, let me be clear, no one ever said they condone it or would ever do it themselves. They only said that they’ve been depressed and felt helpless and felt alone and felt abandoned and they understand what that murderous mother felt. Not that they’d do it too, but that they take the time for understanding… that they have shared a similar experience at least in leading up to the crime.

When a mother (or father) comes to you saying how hard they have it, how difficult their lives are, how no one is there to help, how no one seems to care, how there is no money, how there are no services… and when they say that they understand how hard it must have been for the last mother that was in the news, if you take that as an opportunity to beat that parent down with your words, to bully and chastise, to degrade and humiliate and to dehumanize that parent with all of your might…

What do you do when the parent you bully is the next parent you read about in the news? What do you do when you realize that you pushed them to it?

You do NOT get to throw your hands in the air and say “don’t blame me, murder is never OK.” No, you are not without guilt here. You are in fact a part of the problem. In fact, you’re worse than the lack of support, you’re the opposite of support. And if that mother that you’re beating on is the next one we read about in a headline, I will never ever forgive you. I will never ever let anyone forget what you had done and I will never ever stop reminding you of exactly who is to blame.

You know what? You’re right, murder is never OK. But that doesn’t mean we forsake our humanity and it certainly doesn’t give you a right to forsake yours.

Yes. A parent that tries to kill their child is a monster. And you’re right, murder is never OK. On that, we’ve never disagreed. It’s what comes next that you need to figure out with the rest of us.

Now, either learn to start helping people that need help or get the hell out of the way of the people that will.

About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of http://www.stuartduncan.name. My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.

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17 Responses to Deconstructing the self-righteous – when parents try to kill their children

  1. jillsmo September 21, 2014 at 6:30 pm #

    *standing ovation*

  2. Virginia More Coffee D September 21, 2014 at 7:08 pm #

    This! A thousand times this!!!

  3. littlebitquirky September 21, 2014 at 7:10 pm #

    Well said! I totally agree!

  4. Tom Lewis September 21, 2014 at 7:23 pm #

    I know for a fact that some parents of disabled kids are afraid to discuss the difficult days — or afraid to vent — or even afraid to reach out for assistance, for fear of being painted as unfit parents or worse. And these are the parents who need to talk and reach out the most. Keeping their feelings bottled up will only make it more likely that they’ll eventually explode, won’t it?

    Telling parents — explicitly or implicitly — that they must never ever admit to feeling frustrated or beaten down or at their wit’s end … surely it is obvious that this is a recipe for disaster, isn’t it?

    Telling parents, “Well, I’VE certainly never had those kinds of feelings” isn’t really helpful, is it? I mean, it’s great if you never feel vexed with your child. But what about the parents who DO sometimes feel that way? What, specifically, should be done for (or to, if you insist) THEM? I’ve never really heard any good answers to that question.

    • PK September 22, 2014 at 10:40 am #

      But is that frustration *constructive working through* their difficulties? Being a parent does not make one immune to being *destructive* in their grief and anger. It’s fine line between support groups that nurture people to be better parents, and those that that become a bitchfest that feed fear and anger. Which some take out on their kids. If anything, I would think that these stories of murder-suicides would mobilize families to take a stand against those who *DEVALUE OUR KIDS* Not only are they devaluing our kids, they are also *dirtying our good names* as parents. Because what we see on daily basis, is what we consider the norm. And if it is considered the norm to say things like I hate my disabled child, I wish I had a non-disabled child instead etc., it creates a climate where vitriol against my child is ok. And it’s not ok.Talking through our difficulties and getting support services is a good thing. But justifying hate against my child in the guise of help is unacceptable.

      • Stuart Duncan September 22, 2014 at 11:06 am #

        I am very sorry that anyone ever convinced you that getting support services and justifying hate is the same thing.

      • Tom Lewis September 22, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

        I agree that some groups foment fear and anger — those that consider disabled people “broken” and in need of “fixing,” for example. I condemn such groups. And endlessly bitching about how hard things are for you is not productive. But that’s not the same as saying “man, I’m having a really rough day today.” Nor is it the same as seeking help or services. I completely agree with your sentiment that “talking through our difficulties and getting support services is a good thing. But justifying hate against my child in the guise of help is unacceptable.”

        People do need to be able to talk about their difficulties, however. And in my experience, they’re often shut down immediately for doing so.

  5. Kate Wells September 21, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

    PERFECT!!!!!
    So so right on Stuart!

  6. Marianne September 21, 2014 at 8:12 pm #

    Well said.

  7. coffeemom September 21, 2014 at 11:23 pm #

    Awesome blog! It’s high time we start to call out the bullies within the autism community. Everyone walks a different path, we can help, or we can hinder. I’ll choose to be on the side of helping!

    • Erin September 22, 2014 at 10:45 am #

      Except that some of those “bullies” are people that have autism as well. And if my child felt hurt and *hated* by things that I said, I would want to know!Remember, how you treat adults with disabilities today, is how you tell the world to treat your children tomorrow

      • Stuart Duncan September 22, 2014 at 11:04 am #

        And some of the bullies victims are people that have autism as well.
        I will always remember how I treat adults with disabilities, I am one. I have autism.
        But apparently I rank lower on your priority scale than the bullies.

  8. wantapeanut September 21, 2014 at 11:25 pm #

    I think the difference with some of the other cases you cite is that in those cases the child isn’t blamed. No one blames an 11 month old baby when a parent tries to harm it. When there is a disability involved, the media feel compelled to tell the world how hard it was for the parent, thereby (the argument goes) excusing it.

    But you know what? It IS hard. And that WAS the circumstance that led up to that Kelli’s horrible decision. It doesn’t make it okay to attempt murder/suicide. But just because we don’t like the implication, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

    I wonder too, what would have happened if Issy or another child did manage to kill his or her parent. Would there be compassion then? Or would it still be somehow the parent’s fault?

  9. PK September 22, 2014 at 10:08 am #

    Here’s the thing, though. In those articles, the reaction is “poor child” “monster killed them”. In the killing of disabled children, often it’s “poor parent, so hard to care for x, it’s understandable they ‘couldn’t take it anymore’. ”

    THAT’s the copycat fear. Because people excuse it, and the vicitim becomes the parent that killed and not the child that was killed. In the articled you linked to, they DON’T refer to the murdering parent as the “co-victim”.

    I completely have tons of pit for parents that are reaching the end of their rope, but NOT when they actually kill their children.

    • Tom Lewis September 22, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

      From time to time one hears a news story about a caregiver taking the life of his/her Alzheimer’s spouse. Perhaps this is a better comparison to the Stapleton situation. Usually under these circumstances, we don’t hear a lot of “It’s never OK to kill your spouse” comments. Instead, there is talk of how to prevent such tragedies from happening by providing more supportive outlets for the overburdened caregiver.

  10. Amy Sequenzia September 22, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    “Now, let me be clear, no one ever said they condone it or would ever do it themselves. They only said that they’ve been depressed and felt helpless and felt alone and felt abandoned and they understand what that murderous mother felt.”

    Yes, some have. To me, via email. And I tried to help them, I tried to direct them to people who helped me. I asked what kind of services they wanted. They said things like: I want my child to be toilet trained; I want my child to speak; I want my child to live in a secure place (this one has an adult son who lives independently and she wants him to live in a segregated place).
    Those are not services. And to the ones who said they wanted services, they mentioned ABA, which I oppose, so I told them that, and why, and offered alternatives, like Floortime.

    We, Autistic activists, are always talking to someone and offering our views. We don’t have all the answers but we also don’t send anyone away, unless they disrespect us. And we have written about “where was I when…”.

    You mention parents of non-disabled kids. The thing is, these parents are immediately blamed, tried and found guilty in the press. When it is a disabled child, the victim is always the “trigger” for the murder.

    And about ASAN’s statement you quoted, that was NOT the main part of it. You chose part of the statement and made it look like “copycat” was the main reason for us to condemn the media. Wrong. The main message is that the media makes it look like we are to blame, because if it weren’t for us, the murderous parents would not have these ideas of murder, and everyone else is excusing them. The copycat observation was because Issy did come after Alex, as the mother who drove off a bridge with her daughter did come after the A$ video where The board member said she felt like doing that.

  11. Brian Cea September 25, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

    Really well put. This is dead on Stuart. Thanks for the post.

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