It’s About The Victims

There are lots of people talking about the horrific event in Newtown last week. And they are saying a lot of things. Some of them are compassionate, some of them awful. All of them uninformed.

I’ve refrained from saying anything until now for a few reasons. Initially I was too sad to say anything. Then I was just too stunned by the media reporting that was going on- particularly the reporting around the speculation that the shooter was Autistic. Then I was just plain overwhelmed by the volume of articles flooding the ‘net. Everyone struggling to understand and find a reason all at the same time, all in their own way. And then, I was just grieving and thinking.

Mostly I’ve been thinking about the Victims of the events at Newton.

There are the obvious ones…..
The children who lost their lives.
The teachers who lost their lives.
Their families. Their friends.
The children and teachers who survived.
Their families. Their friends.

There are the slightly less obvious ones……
The shooters mother, who lost her life at her sons hand. Some want to blame her, but she is a victim.
The extended family of the shooter who now live daily with the knowledge of the suffering others endure at the hand of their relative.

And then, the media makes more victims….. They do us all a disservice when they report as they have been. They add to the fear. They demonise whole sections of society. We see it every day when sweeping statements are made. Statements that encompass whole groups of people, stereotyping and stigmatising. We like to have someone to blame. And something to blame.

Somehow it is not enough to blame a person. We want to blame a particular type of person. We have to distance ourselves from the bad guy. He can’t be anything like me, we think. Or anyone I know. If I am to feel safe there has to be something bad about them that made them do this.

So the media gives us what we want. They find something to report that will keep people watching, and ultimately earn them money. This time someone said the shooter may be on the Autistic Spectrum. The media ran with it.

We are all victims in this scenario. Our kids are victims because people begin to fear them. We are victims as their parents attempting to advocate for them. Our non-Autistic children are victims as they hear their peers make incorrect judgements about Autistic people. The general public are victims when this type of reporting happens because they believe what they hear, whether it is true or not, and the ongoing stream of misinformation fuels the fire of misunderstanding and fear.

I don’t think people realise the impact this kind of reporting and the ensuing commentary from members of the public has on those of us who live with Autism (There have been facebook pages pop up in the last week vowing to rid the world of Aspergers by doing things like burning Autistic children!!). It’s not just words to be read. It is attitudes, stigma and ignorance to be battled every day. Going out in public with a child who behaves in ways others find unusual is hard enough to do without the extra fear people now have of Autism due to this reporting. And it is all based on an unconfirmed speculation! It is exhausting, unfair and overwhelming. 

It is also frightening as a parent to now be in the position of wondering if some cocky and thoughtless teen is going to say something to my son at school that is based on all this idiotic talk in the media that Autism is linked to violence. My son who has been the victim of verbal and physical bullying all year at school. Imagine the hurt and confusion he would feel if he was aware of all the talk going on!

I am glad there are those who are writing to counter the horrible misinformation about Autism that is being published at the moment. Myself, I just can’t tackle that one just yet. But someone needs to and I am glad there are those who are. Soon I hope my mind will unblock and I will be able to get back to thinking and writing about life again without the cloud of this awful event sitting in the front of my mind.

Back to my statement that everyone speaking up and offering their opinions on the shootings and why they happened is uninformed…. The simple fact is that we will never know the details of what happened and why. The only person who really knows took his own life. The media can speculate all they want, and so can we if that is what we choose to spend our energy on. But we will never know. We can argue and exert our opinions onto each other as much as we like. But that will not provide any answers either. All it will do is divide communities that could be supporting each other. When we allow communities to remain divided we perpetuate what the media started and remain victims.

For now my thoughts go out to those families most affected by this tragedy- those who have lost loved ones in the most awful of circumstances, who will spend the next period of their lives in deep grief, confusion and pain. I don’t know how they will do it, but I hope they soon find peace and calm return to their lives.

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Michelle Sutton

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