Rochester Area Disability Community Commemorates Lives of Disabled Filicide Victims

As part of a nation-wide Day of Mourning, disability rights advocates in the Rochester area will be joining about 20 other cities by holding a vigil Saturday, March 1, 2013 to honor the lives of disabled people murdered by their families and caregivers. Speakers at the Rochester event will include Diane Coleman and Stephen Drake of the national disability rights organization Not Dead Yet, which is headquartered in Rochester and a co-sponsor of the national Day of Mourning effort.

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Stephen Drake, Not Dead Yet research analyst

Researcher Dick Sobsey has documented an increase in the murders of children by their parents in Canada in relation to well-publicized and sympathetic coverage of the murders of children with disabilities.

Rochester, NY (PRWEB) February 28, 2014

As part of a nation-wide Day of Mourning, disability rights advocates in the Rochester area will be joining about 20 other cities by holding a vigil Saturday, March 1, 2014 to honor the lives of disabled people murdered by their families and caregivers.

Over 40 such murders have been reported in the United States in the last five years, ten in the last year alone. In the year since the last Day of Mourning, the national disability community has lost at least ten more victims. In January of 2014 alone, two more people with disabilities were lost in murder-suicides at the hands of their parents: Damien Veraghen, age nine, and Vincent Phan, age twenty four. The total number of killings is likely higher than the number reported in news media. In addition, this count does not include elder homicides which which often involve elders who also have disabilities.

In a horrifying trend, parents and caregivers, those whom one should be able to trust most, are committing murder against people with disabilities in their care. We must address violence against people with disabilities and speak out against the dangerous cultural prejudice that says a disabled life is not worth living.

The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, Not Dead Yet, and the National Council on Independent Living held the first Day of Mourning in 2012 as a response to the murder of George Hodgins, a 22-year-old autistic man from California, by his mother.

Little public attention is paid to the disabled victims of these violent acts. Media coverage and public discourse about such killings frequently seems to justify them as “understandable” and sometimes “merciful,” rather than appropriately condemning these crimes and those who commit them.

"Researcher Dick Sobsey has documented an increase in the murders of children by their parents in Canada in relation to well-publicized and sympathetic coverage of the murders of children with disabilities," said Stephen Drake, Not Dead Yet's research analyst. "Articles about the alleged murder of a person with a disability should not contain more about the disability than about the victim as a person. More space should be devoted to grieving family members than sympathetic friends of the accused killer."

The National Day of Mourning is a time for the disability community to commemorate the many lives cut short. By honoring disabled victims of murder and celebrating the lives that they lived, these events send a message that disability is not a justification for violence.

The Rochester vigil will be held at the Center for Disability Rights at 497 State Street, and begins at 1:00 p.m. Speakers will include both Diane Coleman and Stephen Drake of Not Dead Yet, which is headquartered in Rochester and a co-sponsor of the national Day of Mourning effort.


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