In search of monsters

So the autism community is up in arms once again, divided down the middle and taking shots at one another. Kellie Stapleton faced a judge one year to the day that she tried to kill herself and her daughter Issy and plead “not guilty” to first-degree child abuse.

The earthquake was felt through out the entire autism community.

Finding Monsters

Like a Disney movie, when a tragedy falls upon the land, your first instinct is to identify the monster. Who is the evil villain this time?

Many people point to the obvious, Kelli Stapleton. The one who tried to take 2 lives, one that was not hers to decide to take. People petitioned for the maximum penalties, some petitioned to have it declared a “hate crime” in order to increase those maximum penalties.  Most people just voiced their opinions on social media.

Meanwhile others pointed to yet another monster, the causes leading up to Stapleton’s actions. Lack of services, lack of support, lack of aide, lack of funding… all the ways in which the systems failed Stapleton and pushed her to commit such terrible acts.

I think it’s fair to say that Ms. Stapelton definitely was a monster. Was she a monster before that day? Is she still a monster after? I don’t know. Was she a monster in that moment? Yes, yes she was. Or I should say, I believe she was. I don’t doubt that she may even agree with that.

Is it fair to say that all those systems that were supposed to help but didn’t are also monsters? Well, they didn’t commit any crimes and, in fact, I’m sure they did their best with what they had. But still, there can be monsters buried in good intentions. A good person refusing to do a good thing is it’s own very special kind of monster.

But there is more to consider than that. There are more monsters in the closet.

The abuse – Being beaten is traumatic. Whether it’s from a stranger, a loved one, intention, unintentional… there is no good way to hurt so bad that you end up in the hospital. This takes a toll on you. Does this make Issy (her daughter) the monster? No, clearly not. She had no self control. But the abuse… the action itself… the constant pain and fear and stress… that is a monster that many people can not live with.

Those who refuse to address the lack of services – These people are so deeply ingrained in the train of thought that Ms. Stapleton is the monster that they refuse to even consider any other monsters. That there was something clearly wrong with her it didn’t matter if she had received services or wasn’t abused or had a much simpler life.

Those who refuse to hold Stapleton accountable – I have not yet met a person that condones what she did but I have met a great many who think that the courts should go easy on her. In fact, that was the basis of her plea was that she had basically been abused and let down and stressed so bad that she was clinically insane when she committed those terrible acts. Many people agree with this and in so doing, feel that her punishment should not be as severe as it would be otherwise.

Not the right question

As The Doctor would say, you’re not asking the right question. The monster isn’t what is important here. Being able to point and say “there’s your monster!!!” changes absolutely nothing.

No, the real question is, how do we prevent this from happening again? ever!

Minority Report – Let’s say we could analyze people’s lives and maybe even be psychic for a day, would it be fair to identify people that have the ability to do such a thing? To find the monsters before they can be monsters? Even if it was fair, could we? Is there such a method that can recognize what a person will do after having a complete mental breakdown? Is there some method to identify the likely ways in which people will handle going from sane to insane in an instant due to PTSD?  I bet even if psychics were real, even they wouldn’t be able to know that.

Precedent – To be honest, I am kind of just making this one up as I see absolutely no other reason to call her a monster, label what she did a hate crime and then lock her away forever. I just don’t see the point of this except to maybe set a precedent such that if anyone else does this, they’d get the same treatment. While this sort of approach might stop a sane, understanding and logically thinking individual, I don’t see it having much of an impact on someone that snaps so completely that they try to kill their own child out of love. I mean, if she had known that the last mom that tried this was locked away forever, would it really have stopped her from trying?

Support – This seems the most logical and while I say “simple”, I know that it truly is anything but. Funding must increase, accommodations must be made. A person can not continue to take the beatings and the disappointments and the rejections for years and years and years all without ever getting any help from the people that keep saying “maybe next time.”

Monster Prevention

I am not professionally capable of determining whether or not Ms. Stapleton is or is not a monster or was or wasn’t a monster. I’m not professionally capable of fixing the insufficient funding nor service/support system deficiencies around the world. I am also not professionally capable of even guessing much less making any attempts to dictate how the law is going to proceed with all of this.

I feel that it’s very important to make you aware of this fact but even more so, myself. And those of you who make statements in social media or in comments or in blogs as if you were professionally capable of doing these things really should take a moment to make yourself aware of these facts as well. You’re not.

What I do know, however, is that whether anyone is ever convinced that they’re looking for monsters in the right places or the wrong places, the real questions we need to be focusing on, the real place we need to start looking for answers is… monster prevention.

How do we stop this from happening? How do we recognize the signs that this could happen? How do we stop it if it is in the process of happening? How do we not only save lives but make it so that those lives never need saving?

These are the questions that need answering. These are far more important things to know than who is or isn’t a monster.

I will leave you with one final thought… to anyone who doesn’t want to discuss these questions or find these answers, anyone that silences or censors others, anyone who wants revenge rather than justice, anyone that wants satisfaction rather than redemption, anyone that is attempting to shut down others who actively seek out ways to stop these tragedies from happening in the future… mirrors are a good place to find monsters.

Monsters in your head

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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One Response to In search of monsters

  1. Stan September 6, 2014 at 4:33 pm #

    Monster-prevention is difficult if the pre-monster individual is (by her own account) difficult, uncooperative and flat-out unwilling to avail herself of the plethora of services and/or sane advice from licensed healthcare providers, as Kelli was:

    http://thecoffeeklatch.com/a-line-in-the-sand/

    Kelli refused to consider: meds for Issy, therapy for the whole family, therapy for herself and Issy, respite services (to give her family a few days of Issy-less calm) and all treatment facilities except ONE*.

    My issue with the specific of Kelli Stapleton is that she actually had a ton of support:

    – 6+ mos break from Issy, who’d been in residential treatment
    – coveted Medicaid waiver that paid for a 1:1 aide for all of Issy’s waking hours (whom Kelli hired/trained prior to her girl’s discharge.

    That’s more services than 99.9% of the world gets. That is so darn many services that getting MORE would’ve required placing Issy in a group home!!

    * not “Hospitals A, B and C do not meet my kid’s needs for [valid reason], what are the other options?” but “Hospital X. Only X!!”.

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