I don’t want to editorialize too much in this post, so I’ll just list some things that have hit me hard in the past few weeks. And, in some sort of ironic punishment, came full circle right in front of my face on 17-June 2013 when I witnessed a vicious child-on-disabled-child act of violence (jump to #5 below).
So, here is the list of things that have haunted me this week, sans (much) editorial comment:
1. Alex Spourdalakis Just Google his name. A horrible murder that is not about a lack of services (though that is a dire issue in the world). There are so many vectors of discussion, shame, and anger — other discussion threads have addressed them. I just want more people to read about Alex.
2. Ethan Saylor Just Google his name or read this Op Ed by his sister, Emma Saylor. A horrible murder that just the simplest compassion or training could have prevented. (Ed. I realize that Ethan was not a child. But he was someone’s child.)
3. The continued use of electric shock for punishment and training at the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Massachusetts. This is 2013, isn’t it?
Restraint and Seclusion: Hear Our Stories from Dan Habib on Vimeo
5. A vicious beating I witnessed myself
I witnessed a young child (perhaps age 9) viciously beating an older, larger child (perhaps age 13) with a stick, with about 4 or 5 other children looking on. The 13 year old had some type of intellectual or emotional challenge, I don’t know what (I assume something like or actually Autism, I don’t know). After I broke up the violence and asked the 13 year old if he was OK (he seemed unharmed physically), I followed the perpetrator home and chatted calmly (yes, it was calmly) with his folks who weren’t always so calm. Some points here:
- I absolutely should have stayed with the victim, brought him home, and called the police. I am angry at myself for not doing that
- The perpetrators family was shocked and I was told by the mother that the child himself obviously had problems. It shouldn’t have to have been me having this discussion.
- What a dope I was not to stay with the victim and to heck with the perpetrator! I should know better! I feel shame.
So, the next day, wracked with guilt and concern about my mishandling, I went to the police in that town to file a report. They were polite, but the officer:
- Didn’t write down more than 12 words on a small piece of paper
- Said “we aren’t in the habit of arresting 9 year olds” even after I had previously told her a few times I was hoping that she could go to the parents of the perpetrator to (1) query the kids friends and locate the victim to inform the parents and see if all was OK and (2) To make sure that the 9 year old aggressor had some access to services (this wasn’t a fight – it was a beating!)
- Didn’t have me sign a police report or even sit down in a private place to talk. Though they were very interested in my name, my date of birth, phone and address
- Told me all she could do was inform the “school officer” (this took place next to, but not on, school grounds after hours) and let them try to identify the victim.
I did in fact make a mistake not calling the police initially. However, I am quite sure the officer was giving me lip service. This was NOT in my town, but it was in a mid-sized New Hampshire town.
Yet, I remain an optimist. The world is filled with so many good folks, I have to keep reminding myself!