By Yael Lenga, Staff Writer
Mariah Kay Woods. Emma Bingaman. Jonathan Schmoyer. These are only a handful of the children under the age of three murdered by their parents for having a disability. The Ruderman Family Foundation discovered that one disabled person is killed by a parent or caregiver each week. March 1st was the Disability Day of Mourning, and on this day each year, we honor the victims of such hate crimes and raise awareness for the brutal violence many people with disabilities experience.
Filicide is the murder of a child by a parent, but in the disabled community, it is the murder of a disabled person by a relative. Parents are so averse to the struggles that come with raising a disabled child that they often abuse or murder their own offspring, sometimes under the false pretense that they are ending his/her suffering. Seen as “mercy killings,” the perpetrators often receive softer sentences in court. In the past, judges have been swayed by ableist justifications and have prevented justice from being served to countless victims. This only perpetuates the pattern of violence and abuse the disabled community faces.
While these horrors are experienced by victims spanning all ages and types of disabilities, a large percentage of them have been affected by autism. The Autistic Self Advocacy Networks (ASAN) estimates that over 650 people with disabilities were killed by relatives or caregivers, a truly heartbreaking number.
If filicide is such a pervasive problem in the disabled community, why haven’t more people heard of it? Better yet, why has the world not taken action to end it? Sadly, the belief that disabled people are inferior to abled people is deeply rooted in our society. Countless movies and TV shows portray living with a disability as torment. Workplaces routinely discriminate against disabled employees or turn them away from positions altogether. Students with disabilities aren’t provided the services they need and are often subject to bullying.
Looking at the rampant ableism in America today, it is easy to see how little people care about those with disabilities. Handicapped people are often dehumanized and discriminated against to a point where society turns a blind eye to blatant injustice. Disabilities have become so stigmatized that we forget to see the people behind them. The lives of people with disabilities are not miserable; they live the same lives as us, just with different needs.
If we continue to ignore these very real issues, more and more innocent lives will be taken. We must change the narrative on disabilities in order to change people’s perceptions. We need to bring awareness to these tragedies and end the vicious cycle of ableism and murder. This Disability Day of Mourning, remember those who suffered at the hands of their trusted caregivers. Remember the poison of ableism and how much it has hurt people in the past. Justice must be brought to these victims.