PUBLISHED: March 1, 2016
On Tuesday, March 1st, the disability community gathers again to remember disabled victims of filicide–people with disabilities who have been killed by family members or caregivers. In the past five years, over one hundred and eighty people with disabilities have been reported as murdered by parents, family members, and trusted caregivers.
People who kill family members with disabilities – whatever the reasons – often get comparatively lighter sentences than parents who kill non-disabled children. This inequity begs the question: Whose lives are valued and whose are not? Police reports and court records suggest it isn’t the disabled victims. As such, lives of people with disabilities are devalued and, sadly, the cycle continues.
The National Council on Disability (NCD) rejects arguments, particularly from the news media, that have attempted to rationalize these crimes by either excusing murder or sympathizing with the killers rather than the victims by citing the difficulties of raising a child with a disability or the need to improve the quality and availability of services.
While improving the availability of supports and services is a laudable goal and is certainly important, when it comes to issues of life and death, there can be no excuses. The issues should not be confused.
Beginning in 2000, NCD called for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice to prioritize and investigate crimes demonstrating clear hostility toward individuals on the basis of disability. We renew this call today and urge local and federal prosecutors to pursue robust prosecutions of hate crimes against persons with disabilities.
Law enforcement and the courts must investigate and prosecute crimes against people with disabilities with the same determination needed to ensure justice for our non-disabled peers. No one, especially those who are trusted to provide care, should receive a pass from prosecution or be exempt from facing the consequences of their conduct.
For the last several years, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, ADAPT, Not Dead Yet, the National Council on Independent Living, the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, and other disability rights organizations have organized and held vigils across the nation to mourn those the disability community have lost, raise awareness, and to demand justice and equal protection under the law for people with disabilities.
NCD supports these efforts and hopes they will prevent future tragedies.