“Disability & Murder: Victim Blaming at Its Worst” by Stella Young

The death of a disabled adult or child is a global problem. Too often, the media and ‘well-meaning’ allies express support and sympathy for the perpetrators rather than the actual victim. The Disability Visibility Project supports the efforts by disabled people pushing back at this ableist narrative.

As the project previously highlighted the case of Issy Stapleton, advocate/comedian/writer Stella Young wrote about a recent case in Australia. Her points are spot on. This is a piece first published in The Drum on September 16, 2014. Excerpts below:

Disability and Murder: Victim Blaming at Its Worst

By now you’ll have heard the story of Geoff Hunt, the 44-year-old grain farmer who shot and killed his wife and three children before committing suicide last week. The community of Lockhart, the Riverina town where the Hunt family lived, is understandably reeling from this crime. Imagining the victims in their final moments has been unavoidable for many. For those who knew the Hunt family, their grief must be immense.

Let me be clear. When I say “victims”, I am talking exclusively about Kim Hunt and her three children, not Geoff Hunt. He is the perpetrator of this crime, not a victim. And yet much of the media coverage that has unfolded has clearly tried to paint a different picture.

When we hear of a crime like this, we quite rightly recoil in horror. And yet, when we hear that a murdered wife is also a woman with a disability, we can find ourselves a little bit less horrified. As though her status as a disabled woman gives us a little more empathy towards the perpetrator of violence. It’s victim blaming at its very worst.

As Nina Funnell eloquently wrote last week:

If a man walked into a classroom, pulled out a gun and shot three children and a teacher, before turning the gun on himself, we’d call it a massacre, and we’d call him a vicious murderer.

Yet when a man walks into his own home and shoots his three children and his wife before turning the gun on himself, he’s remembered in the press as a loving family man who was under some strain.

Whichever way we dress it up, this is a story of domestic violence. Of a man who violently killed his wife and three children. He is not the victim of either this crime, or of the accident in which Kim Hunt was injured two years ago.

Many reports have neglected to mention that although recovery from an ABI can be slow, it’s not impossible, and Kim Hunt was reportedly recovering well. She returned to work in an education role at the local hospital in which she had previously worked as a nurse in April this year. And even if she hadn’t recovered, if she’d remained entirely dependent on support and care for the rest of her life, her murder still isn’t excusable.

Every week in Australia a woman is killed by a current or former partner. Of women who have experienced domestic violence, 73 per cent have experienced more than one incident of violence and 61 per cent had children in their care when the violence occurred.

Women with disabilities are more likely to experience violence at the hands of a partner, and this violence can be more severe. Additionally, there is also evidence that women in rural or regional areas are more likely to experience violence. Research has pointed to narrowly constructed notions of masculinity that emphasise traditional gender roles and the physicality of rural men’s labour, plus patterns of alcohol consumption, as risk factors pertinent to regional and remote areas.

Both women with disabilities and women living in rural or regional areas are less likely to report domestic violence for many of the same reasons: fear of not being believed, lack of access to services, isolation, and lack of access to transport and telecommunications. Kim Hunt fit into both of these categories.

Perhaps the media should be focussing on the factors that make women vulnerable to violence and raising awareness of how we can help, rather than using disability as a scapegoat yet again.

For other examples of this, we need look no further than the reporting of the Oscar Pistorius trial. Assertions that “psychological trauma” caused by having his legs amputated when he was 11-months-old and living as an amputee led to him shooting and killing Reeva Steenkamp. Further, some reports have said that the failure of his (now deceased) mother to comfort him at the time would have added to the trauma and caused him to suffer ongoing anxiety in adulthood.

Yet again, the blame for violence committed by a man is placed squarely at the feet of a woman.

Is disability relevant in the lives of individual people? Of course it is. But it must never be treated as an excuse for violence. And an overemphasis in reporting does us all a disservice.

For the entire post: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-16/young-victim-blaming-at-its-very-worst/5745346


Stella Young is a comedian, disability advocate and Editor of ABC’s Ramp Up website.

Website: http://stellayoung.com

Twitter: @stellajyoung

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stellajyoung

Read some of her recent work: http://stellayoung.com/?page_id=20

Asian American woman with blonde highlights. She is wearing glasses and is sitting in a wheelchair.

People We Love: Stacey Milbern, Berkeley, CA

This quote from Stacey Milbern really speaks to the invisible forces that surround women of color and disabled women of color in particular.

We know that women of color have been asked to hide and deny their perspectives in service of others. Sharing that you feel critical of something can be a threat to others, and the consequences can be scary. At same time, your thoughts are a huge part of who you are. The world gets better when you are your authentic you. Documenting it for the public is one of the most radical things a person can do.



Stacey Milbern is a Program Manager with the Center Of Independent
 Living and Project Coordinator for the Autistic Self Advocacy
 Network’s  Pacific Alliance on Disability Self-Advocacy efforts.
 Stacey has been working in the disability community since she was 18
years old. She lives in Oakland, CA and is 2015 MBA candidate at Mills
 College. She serves on the Special Hope Foundation’s board of
directors and in her free time, enjoys exploring the Bay Area and
playing with her kitten Frankie.

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/stacey-milbern/25/46b/566

Twitter: @cripchick


Do you have a badass quote you’d share with the Disability Visibility Project? Email Alice: alicat155@gmail.com

A white woman with glasses and long brown hair smiling at the camera. She is eating a turquoise jacket and a black necklace.

Guest blog post: ‘Whose Body Is It Anyways?’ by Kaley Roosen

This blog post by Kaley Roosen was published on December 10, 2013 by the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC), a Canadian non-profit providing resources on eating disorders & weight preoccupation.

When I was in the 10th grade, like most students, I started thinking about what I was going to do after high school. However, unlike many high school students, I was concerned about who was going to help me get ready every morning once I moved out of my parents’ home. I have muscular dystrophy, a progressive muscle wasting disease that impacts the muscles in both my legs and arms. I had been just two years shy of using a wheelchair at that point. Going from standing to sitting all day, I had gained some weight. And weight gain for a disabled woman, I learned, was not an option.

At first it was my doctors. They warned me that my parents would not be able to lift me all my life and that I would have to find a new way to transfer from sitting to standing. This scared me. Terrified me! If no one would be able to lift me, how would I ever leave the house again or use the washroom? Then there were my attendants, who frequently made comments about my weight and how difficult it was to help me. The thought of not being able to move out on my own and go to university also terrified me.

Because of this, I started to diet, but like with any diet, especially for a person who can’t exercise, it didn’t work so well. I had to keep cutting out more and more in order to continue to lose weight. And I did lose weight. As I did, the compliments grew. But, they weren’t the compliments that you would expect. I wasn’t told that I looked better in my clothes: I was told that it was so much easier to lift me. I wasn’t told that I appeared to be healthier: I was told that it was so much easier to help me pull up my pants. The compliments weren’t about me, rather they were about how much easier I had made it to help me.

For the entire blog post: http://nedic.ca/blog/whose-body-it-anyways

Kaley Roosen (M.A.) is a Ph.D. candidate in Clinical Psychology at York University. She lectures on topics concerning weight, disordered eating, and body image. As a woman with a disability, she has focused much of her advocacy & clinical work, teaching, and research on connecting scholarship from critical disability studies with psychology. Her current research examines eating and body image concerns in women with physical disabilities.

For more on Kaley’s research: http://www.soroptimistfoundation.ca/grantwinners/grantwinners2012.html#kaley

National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC)

Website: http://nedic.ca

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/NEDIC85

Facebook: https://www.youtube.com/user/NEDIC85

Twitter: @theNEDIC

Black and white image of a woman seated with long dark hair. She is located on the lower left hand side of the photo and there is a large tree behind her.

Media Partner #51: Lucia Rios, Holland, Michigan

Thank you to Lucia Rios for reaching out to the Disability Visibility Project from our Facebook page! We are proud to have her as a media partner and for allowing us to re-blog some of her recent work.

From AbleBodies blog:

Lucia Rios has been a lifelong resident of West Michigan. Born with spina bifida, she has used crutches and a wheelchair since childhood. Lucia has never seen her disability as something that limits what she can do, but it has given her many opportunities she wouldn’t have had otherwise. She feels having a disability is not the barrier, but it’s the attitudes and physical structures around her that create a disabling environment.

For the past 11 years she has worked for a non-profit disability organization.  She educates the community about disability etiquette, accessibility and employment barriers, as well as provides training to youth with disabilities. She is an active freelance writer for a local publication and coordinates social media efforts for a small business.

Lucia encourages everyone to look past the exterior of someone and truly get to know the person for who he or she is. She encourages you not to let assumptions or fear prevent you from meeting some awesome individuals.

Follow Lucia on Twitter: @luckylucia

Email: lucia@dnlakeshore.org


Blog: http://ablebodies.typepad.com/blog/

Email: ablebody4@gmail.com

Logo for the Disability Visibility Project. A yellow background and black bold letters and images. Line one: Disability Visibility Project. Line two: A community partnership with StoryCorps. Line 3: 4 images in a row of the Golden Gate Bridge, a peach, the Chicago skyline and a trailer. Line 4: Under each image: SF, ATLANTA, CHICAGO, MOBILE TOUR. Line 4: Recording disability history, one story at a time' Line 5: July 2014-2015. Line 6: DisabilityVisibilityProject.com @DisVisibility #DisabilityVisibility #ADA25

Available Reservations at StoryCorps SF: 9/25, 10/2

While this is rare, StoryCorps San Francisco has two days where they have several reservations still open and available. They currently have 4 reservations open on both September 25th and October 2nd:

9/25 at 1pm, 3pm, 5pm and 6pm

10/2 at 1pm, 2pm, 5pm, and 6pm

Available reservations can be booked through the public reservations calendar at https://storycorps.org/reservations/

Additional information about How To Participate in the Disability Visibility Project can be found here:


For more information about StoryCorps San Francisco: http://storycorps.org/san-francisco/

Logo for the Disability Visibility Project. A yellow background and black bold letters and images. Line one: Disability Visibility Project. Line two: A community partnership with StoryCorps. Line 3: 4 images in a row of the Golden Gate Bridge, a peach, the Chicago skyline and a trailer. Line 4: Under each image: SF, ATLANTA, CHICAGO, MOBILE TOUR. Line 4: Recording disability history, one story at a time' Line 5: July 2014-2015. Line 6: DisabilityVisibilityProject.com @DisVisibility #DisabilityVisibility #ADA25

FAQ: Access to full text and audio of interviews

On September 15, 2014, Alice Wong, Project Coordinator of the Disability Visibility Project received a question about the accessibility of interviews posted on the website via twitter.

A conversation began and Disability Visibility Project stated that only excerpts of the interviews  are included in blog posts because we do not have resources to transcribe the full interviews accurately yet.

While participants from StoryCorps may share their recordings with us, we will not post the entire audio file until we have accurate and complete transcripts. Having materials in accessible formats is important to the project and is part of our long-range plans for this growing collection of amazing stories.

We foresee having to raise funds to create an online archive for the public that will include interactive features, complete audio recordings and text transcripts of those recordings.

Access for one means access for all.

There was some misunderstanding by the person that we were excluding Deaf people when we actually are doing the opposite. We are only posting information that is accessible for all and will take our time to ensure it is done correctly.

For any questions, please email Alice: alicat155@gmail.com or on Twitter: ‪@SFdirewolf



Image of a small white woman with short red hair sitting in a wheelchair. She's looking upward with a smile and her hand touching her chin.

People We Love: Stella Young, Melbourne, Australia

Earlier we posted something about life and work of Laura Hershey:


In a letter published to herself, writer/comedian/activist Stella Young gives her younger self advice and references this poem by Laura:

You must remember fellow crip activist Laura Hershey’s words every day. You haven’t read them yet, so I’ll give them to you early:

You get proud by practicing.

This is possibly the most important thing anyone will ever tell you. The journey towards disability pride is long, and hard, and you have to practice every single day. From where I write to you now, at the age of 31, I have been practicing a long time, and I’m still not there. That’s OK. Perhaps it’s not an achievement you can ever truly unlock. The self-doubt and the internalised ableism will always creep back in at odd moments – like when you’re on a dance floor late on a Friday night, or when your friends forget to host parties in accessible venues, or when you are naked with someone new for the first time – but you’ll get quicker at banishing those thoughts, and you’ll have far less of them than you do now.

What Laura said was true. You get proud by practicing. Practice every day. Other people can love you, but only you can make you proud.

The way you’ve been conditioned to think about disability can’t be easily fixed by just putting a positive spin on everything. It’s much more complicated than that, and so are you. Disabled people live complicated lives. Never decide what you think about something with absolute certainty. Always be open to having your opinion challenged and your mind changed.

Go ahead. Lead a rich and messy life. It will get better and better, and just when you think it can’t get any better than that, it will.

For Stella’s entire letter first published by ABC Ramp Up on October 4, 2013: http://www.abc.net.au/rampup/articles/2013/10/04/3861579.htm

Stella Young is a comedian, disability advocate and Editor of ABC’s Ramp Up website.

Website: http://stellayoung.com

Twitter: @stellajyoung

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stellajyoung

Read some of her recent work: http://stellayoung.com/?page_id=20

Geometric logo for the Starkloff Disability Institute. Green horizontal and vertical bars shaped in the letter 'S' in a maze-like pattern with a black circle in the center.

Media Partner #50: Starkloff Disability Institute, St. Louis, MO

With the StoryCorps Mobile Tour arriving in St. Louis this fall, we are very thankful to have the support of the Starkloff Disability Institute!

The Starkloff Disability Institute has as its mission to create a world that welcomes all people with disabilities by empowering them, by influencing the non-disabled, by serving as liaison between the two groups, and by working toward a goal of economic independence through employment.

Founded in 2003 by Max and Colleen Starkloff, the Starkloff Disability Institute works on changing societal attitudes and perceptions about people with disabilities through activities that send a positive message about living with disability in order to create a world that welcomes disabled people.

The Institute does this through various projects which disseminate a positive message about living with disability:

  • The Disability Studies Initiative
  • The Disability History Project
  • Universal Design Summit
  • Direct Action
  • The Next Big Step

Image of colorful geometric triangles with the text: Party to the Max. Save the date September 20

Website: http://starkloff.org/s/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StarkloffDisabilityInstitute?sk=wall

Image of a white circle and dividing the circle horizontally are the words: Disability Network. The word Lakeshore is along the lower right part of the circle. The background is aqua blue

Media Partner #49: Disability Network/Lakeshore, Holland, MI

We are thankful to have the support of Disability Network/Lakeshore! DNL helped us spread the word about our project as StoryCorps’ Mobile Tour stayed in Grand Rapids, MI recently.

From DNL’s website:

Each year at Disability Network/Lakeshore, we help over 1,500 people with disabilities to lead productive lives. Our efforts not only benefit these individuals but also their families and the wider community in the lakeshore area. We have been serving Allegan and Ottawa counties since 1992.

Our mission is to connect people with disabilities to resources and opportunities while building communities where everyone can participate, contribute, and belong. Our dream is to create engaged citizens and livable communities. To that end, our staff works to provide information, referrals, and support to people with a wide variety of disabilities.

Website: http://dnlakeshore.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dnlakeshore

#JusticeForIssy: Statement by Autism Women’s Network

The Autism Women’s Network recently released a statement in regard to the attempted murder of a young teenager with autism, Issy Stapleton, by her mother. Recently the parent, Kelly Stapleton, pled guilty to first-degree child abuse despite admitting to attempted murder. She has not been sentenced yet.

Image description: pale pink background with whimsical dragonflies in the upper left and lower right corners of the graphic. Text reads: “Autism Women’s Network an Intentional Community”  Below the text is an assortment of words and phrases in multiple fonts, text size and burgundy colored hearts scattered throughout the image. The assorted words read: “Neurodiversity, Respect, Disability Rights, Activism, Community, Autistic, Autism Acceptance, Inclusion, Presumption of Competence, Advocacy, Disability Pride, Diversity, Intersectional, Identity First, Functioning Label Free, Inclusive, Social Justice”


AWN Calls for Zealous Prosecution in the Attempted Murder of Issy Stapleton

Earlier this week, an autistic teenager in Michigan survived a murder attempt committed by her mother, who is now facing criminal charges. The Autism Women’s Network is deeply saddened and profoundly concerned at yet another situation in which a disabled person has been targeted for violence by a family member. Our work seeks to challenge the dominant narrative of disability as defect, deficiency, and disorder, because this narrative paints a disabled person’s life as a tragedy and a burden. This is precisely the kind of attitude that leads to justifications for violence against disabled people, when policymakers and the media alike encourage the public to sympathize with the aggressors rather than the victims.

There is no excuse for murder or any other form of violence directed against disabled people. Lack of adequate supports and services does not lead to murder. The attitude that disabled life is lesser or of less value does. This year alone, we have come to learn of numerous cases in which disabled people were murdered by people who should have been supportive and loving. In each of these cases, the rhetoric of excuses and justifications for the murderers has dominated public discourse about the lives of people with disabilities.

We urge law enforcement and prosecutorial offices to commit to thorough investigation and zealous prosecution of these acts of violence as hate crimes. Until our legal system begins to recognize that these crimes are connected by the same attitude of hatred for people with disabilities, those who commit them will continue to be able to do so with impunity. The work of the Autism Women’s Network is predicated on developing communities more responsive to the needs of autistic women and more inclusive and accessible to all people with disabilities. Our goals of equal access and opportunity will never be achieved for as long as the law treats violence against disabled people as excusable or acceptable.

Link: http://us5.campaign-archive2.com/?u=d0b61c166ab330f756ab407d0&id=4cf634f58a

Here are a few tweets about this case using the hashtag #JusticeForIssy


Autism Women’s Network is to provide effective supports to Autistic women and girls of all ages through a sense of community, advocacy and resources.

The Autism Women’s Network is dedicated to building a supportive community for Autistic women of all ages, our families, friends and allies.  AWN provides a safe space to share our experiences in an understanding, diverse and inclusive environment.

AWN is committed to recognizing and celebrating diversity and the many intersectional experiences of Autistic women. AWN welcomes all women, supporters of women, those who have at one time identified as women and non binary gender variant individuals.  AWN recognizes and affirms the gender identity of each individual.  AWN also welcomes the support and community of those who do not and have not identified as women as allies to support us in our work. If you have additional questions, please contact Lei Wiley-Mydske, AWN Community Outreach Coordinator: lei@autismwomensnetwork.org

Website: http://autismwomensnetwork.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AutismWomensNetwork

Tumblr: http://autisticwomen.tumblr.com

Twitter: @Autism_Women