Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Horror where you would least expect it

Some of the men (or "boys" as the townspeople
knew them) dressed for a performance
at the Zion Lutheran Church
An appalling tale of abuse was published ["The ‘Boys’ in the Bunkhouse"] on March 9 in the New York Times. The victims were adult men with cognitive disabilities far milder than those we are familiar with. Nevertheless, as with every scandal involving a population with disabilities, its ripples reach us and our children.

The case has myriad facets including the cruel and self-righteous perpetrators who admit to no wrongdoing; the indifferent or naive townspeople who could have intervened but didn't; the incompetent government welfare and law enforcement officials; and the legislation that still permits employment abuse of people with disabilities.

These merged elements enabled thirty years of horrific, unabated physical, emotional and wage abuse of several dozen men.

Housed in an abandoned Iowa school house, they labored at a turkey processing plant for a pittance. I must warn you that the article is a long and distressing read. The one comforting detail is that the nightmare ended in 2009 and the men were recently each awarded $1.6 million of compensation for their suffering.

The salient morals I gleaned were:
  1. The man-on-the-street should meddle away when abuse is suspected.
  2. Those vaunted segregated sheltered workshops - a fixture in the world of adult disabilities - need re-assessment. They may not be the "paradise" they appear to be.

No comments: