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Disability community mourns victim allegedly shot by mom

Fri, May 11, 2012

On March 30, people with disabilities and their allies gathered in cities across the country as part of a National Day of Mourning. Vigils were held to honor the lives of people with disabilities who have been killed by family members or care givers. Access Living hosted a vigil for the disability community in Chicago.

As part of a national day of mourning organized by the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) and Not Dead Yet, Chicagoans gathered March 30 at Access Living, 115 W. Chicago Ave., in response to the alleged murder of an autistic man by his mother.

Disabled people came together March 30 in cities across the U.S. to hold vigils and memorial services to honor murder victims with disabilities, to demonstrate to the community that the lives of disabled people have value, and to say that disability is never a justification for murder. A complete list of vigil locations can be found at ASAN’s website, autisticadvocacy.org .

On March 6, George Hodgins, 22, was reportedly murdered by his mother in Sunnyvale, Calif. Elizabeth Hodgins allegedly killed herself after fatally shooting her son. A story from the Mercury News about the murder focused on the mother’s stress as a parent of an autistic child.

According to Zoe Gross, a member of ASAN, some coverage of the murder asked readers to “put themselves in the shoes of the murderer. . . but no articles called for empathy for the murder victim, who died knowing that his own parent had chosen to kill him.”

Gross went on to say, “When disabled people are murdered by caretakers or family members, many people justify these murders as ‘understandable,’ or talk about the ‘burden’ of caring for someone with a disability.”

Advocates in the disability community have continued a dialogue about Hodgins’s death. They say that rather than sympathize with the person who was murdered, coverage tended to be emphatic with the mother, implying that what she did was understandable because she had to live with someone with a disability.

Unfortunately, advocates note, this has reinforced traditional negative messages about disability being a burden, and of people being better off dead than disabled.

Vigils on the national day of mourning were a response, to honor people with disabilities who have been killed by a family member.

“Tragically, like many other places in the United States, Chicago has its own share of people with disabilities who have been murdered by family members,” said Amber Smock, Access Living’s director of advocacy. “We gather in solidarity to mourn the death and honor the life of those we have lost.”

Written by Gary Arnold,
StreetWise Contributor


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