The persecution of the disabled continues

Posted on: 12 September 2011 by Alexander Hay

As the sadistic abuse of disabled and vulnerable people continues without end, the government seems unable or unwilling to act effectively

It seems that for some in our society, it would be better if the disabled weren't there at allHow many deaths will it take for something to be done?

Public authorities are guilty of a "systemic failure" to protect the hundreds of thousands of disabled people who routinely endure harassment or abuse, according to an inquiry. The most extreme cases of abuse, including torture and murder, represent only a small part of the problem, and a "cultural shift" is needed in how disabled people are viewed.

Verbal and physical abuse, theft, fraud and sexual bullying have become so widespread that disabled people seldom report even serious incidents because they accept the harassment as inevitable...

Needless to say, even the worst cases seem to have had little impact:

...The inquiry was set up by the Equality and Human Rights Commission after the deaths of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter, Francecca Hardwick, in Leicestershire in 2007. The two were found dead in their burnt-out car not far from the home where they had suffered seven years of verbal and physical harassment by local youths who went unpunished...

Instead, a grim pattern is repeated, of neglect and apathy on the part of civil authorities:

..The inquiry examined 10 cases of severe abuse, nine of which resulted in the death of the victim. In many cases, police, health, housing and social services had done little to tackle harassment and petty crimes against the victims which then escalated into more serious assaults. Instead, the victims were often advised to stop going out or to avoid the perpetrators, and disability was rarely considered to be a motivating factor in the crime even when accompanied by hateful name calling. Serious case reviews were carried out in only half of the deaths...

Naturally, the report calls for unsympathetic attitudes towards disability to be challenged, but is this possible? British society is cruel and pitiless at the best of times, and as befits a nation where the bully rules supreme, the weakest are the most despised and so the most abused.

As the report's lead commissioner Mike Smith put it:

...Mike Smith, the lead commissioner and disability committee head from the EHRC, said: "What is most shocking about the 10 extreme cases is just how vile people can be to other people in modern society. But, when you take a step back, almost more shocking is just how much of this nasty stuff is happening to a lot of people a lot of the time, yet no one is taking notice. It's like a collective denial..."

Or perhaps the unspoken but widely shared attitude, from the playground up, that it's the victim's fault for making themselves a 'target' (code for simply being there in the first place). You can't challenge that sort of entrenched viciousness without decades of hard work and it is plain that the political will is not there.

So a more creative response is needed. If the public doesn't care about disabled people and their families being abused, perhaps they might be reminded that the likes of the thugs who drove Fiona Pilkington and her daughter to their deaths are still roaming the streets?

Anybody who is capable of abusing and torturing a vulnerable adult is capable of doing it to anyone else under the right circumstances. Usually it is children, like James Bulger, Victoria Climbie or 'Baby P' who suffer at the hands of these criminals.

Or people who happen to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time, like Steven Lawrence or David Morley. It is in everyone's self interest for these sadistic individuals to be arrested and locked up - their behaviour is, after all, a potential threat to anyone, especially if the police and social services continue their usual trick of not doing anything.

The alternative is for us all to make the best of a bad situation, at the mercy of those without compassion, as many disabled and vulnerable people are forced to on a daily basis.

[SOURCE: The Independent]

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Alexander Hay

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