A Response to WHEC’s Bret Davidsen
Mr. Davidsen, I read your piece “NYS Exposed: Sex Offenders” and I found it full of bias and lacking in proof. What you did not mention was that there were levels to being labeled a sex offender. Level 1 could be as simple as a 16 year old having relations with an 18 year old and their parents press charges. A person with a hangover urinates outside and is charged with lewd behavior and put on the sex offenders list. But what is really concerning to me, is that disability is being featured here.
Your article suggests that people with developmental disabilities are dangerous. Period. The only dangerous thing here is your line of thinking. Your article brings up fearmongering in our community and all it is going to do is create a barrier for people with disabilities who want to live in the community. People who have never done anything wrong but are being penalized because of the community’s fear of people they do not understand. That is not only wrong but discriminatory in nature.
To say that “12 convicted sex offenders who were living in a secured section of that facility were quietly moved into group homes throughout Western New York” is misleading because of the previously mentioned levels. There is no mention of what these people actually did to deserve the title “sex offender”. Did they actually sexually assault someone or did one person in the facility have consensual sex with another person in the facility? Developmentally disabled people aren’t always afforded the luxury of consent so how many times do you think someone was labelled a “sex offender” because of legal criteria of “consent”?
In Kansas, there was a case where a man was charged because according to law “a person who has sexual intercourse with another person commits the crime of rape in the first degree if the victim is incapable of consent by reason of mental defect, mental incapacitation or physical helplessness.” This was despite the fact that she was found to have normal relationships that included sexual relations previously.
This happened because of the community’s need to infantilize people with disabilities. There are people in our community labelled as sex offenders for ultimately doing nothing wrong. What’s disturbing most about your article is it did not show the violence AGAINST people with developmental disabilities. You should have interviewed a disabled person to show perspective on the matter. Had you done your research, you would have found that people with disabilities are more often victims of violence than the people committing the violence.
Nor did you mention the violence to people with developmental disabilities living in group homes or facilities like the one mentioned. Did you know that there are often “fight clubs” in resident homes? This means that the staff pits resident against resident in physical fights for their own amusement and betting purposes. Just last year, four workers at a group home allegedly encouraged a person with developmental disabilities to attack another disabled person on Long Island. This could easily be a reason residents were written up for “escaping” the facility. Without proof, it’s hard to say if there was abuse the resident was trying to escape from.
I am not suggesting it’s impossible for a disabled person to be violent or commit a crime. I am however suggesting that your article is one sided and perpetuates the stereotype that ALL developmentally disabled people are dangerous. If a person without a disability is found safe to live in the community, then they are allowed to do so. If a person with a disability is found safe to live in the community, they are faced with comments like “Bottom line is if we have to worry about them, Why are they out? Just throw the key away.” This was a comment written about YOUR article. Readers are already gathering a “them” versus “us” mentality about this issue because they read your article. So before you write another article about people with disabilities, think of the impact this has on the disability community and make sure you have all the facts correct before hitting send.