One thing that is known about people with autism is that unfortunately they tend to be the target of bullying at some point in their life. This is brought on by a combination of being different and standing out from the crowd, as well as sometimes being more vulnerable, and more easily led by those around them. It is unfortunate how many people will target the most vulnerable in society, be it somebody with autism, somebody with dementia in an elderly person`s home, or somebody in the middle of the street having an epileptic seizure.
In the last few week’s people fitting all three of these descriptions have been robbed, beaten up, raped, humiliated, and in several cases filmed while the above acts were taking place. Now that – in and of itself – is a shocking indictment on society, but saying that, is it even particularly shocking? If you`ve been watching the news recently you know it probably isn’t. These crimes are horrible to read about, but at least once you`ve finished reading about them you know that the people who`ve perpetrated them are going to be safely locked away in prison – except that`s the problem – you don`t. There have been several cases recently where young people with autism have been beaten up severely, and I am not talking about being bullied in school, I mean prolonged and savage attacks by fully grown adult men. The sentences given out to these men are either a couple of months, or nothing at all. I personally am not a fan of prisons in the way they work now. I believe that people should have a chance to reform and be rehabilitated, but there has to be a punishment. Saying that you are going to give somebody community service for a prolonged and brutal physical, and sexual assault on an autistic young man, because they `look remorseful` – as a judge said recently – is simply twisted – where is the line drawn? The victim of that attack has suffered what will probably be life-long psychological trauma, as well as devastating physical injuries, and yet the perpetrators `looked remorseful` so they escaped prison. But what if their victim had died? And that is not a particularly big stretch – punching somebody to the ground, and stamping on their head could easily lead to death. So what if the victim had died, and his attackers had `looked remorseful` then? Is this the message we are trying to get across, that unless somebody with autism actually dies you have free-reign to do whatever you feel like to them? I am not a fan of the ridiculously long prison terms in places such as America, and I have always been opposed to the death penalty, but if someone deliberately sets out to hurt another person, and endanger their life, then regardless of the attacker’s age and circumstances, surely there should be some punishment?
There are other cases such as people who work in nursing homes, who assault and steal from elderly residents with dementia: punching them, kicking them, humiliating and degrading them in every way, and yet when the prison term comes back its three or four months. The reality is that if you cheat on your benefit, or taxes you are liable to spend a lot more time in prison than if you beat-up one of the more vulnerable members of society.
I am not saying that people should always be given twenty year sentences – of course you have to keep things in proportion – but assaulting the weak and vulnerable for your own entertainment is one of the most despicable things you can do. If judges can`t hand out decent prison sentences for this, what is the point in having a prison system at all? For me it is no different than all the celebrity paedophiles who have recently been exposed. They got away with what they did for so many years because children in the U K were treated as second-class citizens. They were able to do what they wanted to do with immunity for so long because they knew in reality that society – although it may have been shocked, and appalled if it had found out about the crimes – did not care enough to take any one child`s story seriously. It may seem tenuous, but when you can read five different stories in two weeks of the most vulnerable people in society being assaulted physically, sexually and emotionally – in some cases being tortured – being humiliated and degraded, and being scarred sexually, emotionally and even physically for life, and the combined sentence for all of these offenders is under five years – and the vast majority of these will be released early – it is hard not to feel anger.
And then you go on to somewhere like twitter, and read about how people`s children have been failed by Assessment and Treatment Units, where they were supposed to be safe, but instead have been neglected and ending up dying under the supervision of the very people who were supposed to be helping them. These individuals are then failed once more by the authorities and courts, who refuse to take any kind of action against these units. This simply reinforces the view that the vulnerable are being neglected. People with autism are being taken away from their families to facilities hundreds of miles away which actually have no experience of autism. Some are being sectioned, and are not allowed to see their families if they have any kind of meltdown. The Government are also seizing every opportunity to take benefits, and support from disabled people in society – so I suppose that really clears up the first point; why is it so difficult to see people who commit crimes like this sentenced to a decent prison term? The reason is that the Government, and the system as a whole, seem to have as much contempt and disregard for vulnerable, and disabled people as the individuals who are committing these crimes against them
Links to a couple of the stories mentioned in the blog. WARNING – they are very distressing.
Links to some of the campaigns surrounding vulnerable people being neglected in Assessment and Treatment Units, and others being moved miles away from their families to completely unsuitable accommodation.
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