But let me get back to that question in a moment.
First, I want to say that, as any parent of a non-neurotypical child, especially one with a speech/communication issue, I have certain nightmare situations. The biggest one is that my son will be abused or hurt by someone and will not be able to tell me that it’s happened – or happening. The thought of continued and/or repeated abuse or neglect is a huge concern, and it’s one that I can’t put aside easily. Simon’s communication is limited, and while he sometimes comes up with some awesome ways to tell us what he wants, telling us about things that he does or things that happen…well, that’s almost impossible. Just trying to find out if he had gym class or art one day leads to a multitude of questions with no way of telling what the true answer is. (Except that we always know because his teacher sends home a daily checklist.)
So with that said, let’s get into the second point: a recent occurrence in Maryland. Two teenage girls, ages 15 and 17, repeated assaulted a 16 year old autistic boy with a knife, made him perform sex acts (including with animals) and taped them on their cell phones (thank god they were stupid enough to do that), and forced him to walk on a frozen pond, making him drag himself out when he fell in. Only one girl is being charged as an adult (the 17 year old), and both are facing charges of second-degree assault, child pornography, and false imprisonment.
Now back to my question.
Why is this not a hate crime?
According to CAIR in Maryland, a hate crime is “an act that appears to be completely or partly motivated by race, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation or disability. To be considered a hate incident, the act is not required to be a crime under any federal, state, or local statue…”
Well, it sure sounds like what they did was a crime, and it also sounds like it was motivated by his disability. Would they have done this to a neurotypical boy? Doubtful. And CAIR says that in order to be a hate crime, it only need “the victim [to perceive] it as a hate crime.” Furthermore, their actions seems to also fall into the federal law definition in that the victim was selected “because of race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender or disability.”
But in this case, it does not appear that they are being charged with a hate crime.
Their actions are going to “harm…or intimidate a particular group” – those of us who fall under that broad spectrum of disability. The girls’ actions clearly harmed the boy in question, but they further intimidate those of us who are trying to allow our children to live a “normal” life; they make us question our decisions. Are we safe allowing our children to go to the bathroom by themselves in public? To attend public school? To go for a walk? All of these things are taken for granted as being “safe” (or at least as safe as they ever can be), but when actions like these come to light, we suddenly need to question that safety. We need to wonder if we are allowed to live our lives or if we will be kept locked up, locked away from the public.
Sadly, I don’t expect to see this be charged as a hate crime, but I wish it would be, and if it was local, I would get involved to see what it would take to see that happen. Maybe someone in Maryland will read this and question the prosecutor in the case, the police, anyone who may have a say or be able to help change the situation. Because when this happens, it affects all of us, and we all need to be aware and be the change.