Monday, September 8, 2014

We Do Need To Talk About The Whys...

I'm just going to dive on in here...

When Kelli Stapleton tried to kill her daughter and herself, I was very black and white on the issue (I wrote some posts last September you can peruse, I won't link to them all individually.) Murder is murder, and every fiber of my being screamed at how wrong it all was. I felt no sympathy for Kelli. None. I wanted her in jail. I wanted her punished. I wanted an example to be made so that the public knew autism wasn't a reason for murder. I didn't want to talk about the "why's", because to me that felt like looking for an excuse as to why Kelli did what she did. Or finding a way to excuse what she did.

I was angry that the same people who railed against the murder of Alex Spourdalakis didn't react the same way to Issy's attempted murder. That because Kelli had a blog and was active on social media, somehow she mattered more than her daughter. We saw her side of the story, whereas with Alex we saw his. That the only reason people jumped up to defend Kelli was because people knew more about her than Issy, and if Alex's mother had blogged about her experience, instead of telling us about Alex, she would have fared better in the court of public opinion, too.

In all honesty, none of knows what really went on in the Stapleton home, or how Issy was treated. We never know the inner workings of a stranger's life (which is what we all really are, when we only meet online.) I was in the small minority of people who wasn't moved by the video Kelli put on her blog of Issy's violent meltdown, at least not in the way she wanted. I was upset that a mother would videotape her child at her most vulnerable, and seemingly egg on an attack to show the world. It rubbed me the wrong way from the beginning, and I admittedly hid from my timeline any mention of Kelli, thereafter.

I vehemently believed that parents should never come to the point of murdering their children because they just shouldn't. As though thinking that way is enough. It shouldn't happen, so there's no reason to try and understand any "whys", or figure out better ways to support families. Just don't kill your kid.

A year later, I still don't have any sympathy for Kelli. I have, however, tried to think about what happened by replacing Kelli and Issy with families I know. Women whom I respect and have treasured friendships with, if only online. What if one of them did the unspeakable? Reached the point where, for whatever reason, taking a life felt like the only option. Would I be as black and white? Would I not want to talk about the "whys"? Would I think that trying to make sure families don't reach this point was somehow excusing the act itself?

So, something changed. I realized that while I do not condone or understand what Kelli did, the truth is, families do reach this point. Wishing it didn't happen isn't helpful. Shutting down any conversation about how we can keep parents from reaching the point of no return only places more kids in danger. If I truly care about the other autistic children out there, and don't want to see headlines like this again, there does need to be a conversation about the "whys", and there does need to be a conversation about how to better help families. Having this conversation doesn't make the crime any less of a crime. It protects children like mine from being harmed when parents reach the end of their rope, with nowhere to turn, and services that they believe just won't work.

Something else that made me realize I needed to change my thinking happened when I posed a question/concern to an online autism group, recently. I found many families were struggling in a similar way, yet none had any idea what to do. No doctor or therapist had helped. No one had any answers or suggestions. We really are a community that is sadly lacking in support, and sees an unbelievable amount of money poured into researching how to prevent the diagnosis our children carry, but no money poured into helping the kids and adults already here. Our kids matter, and we as caretakers matter. We all deserve to be happy, healthy, and supported.

Murder is always wrong, on that I remain unchanged, but being unwilling to discuss ways to prevent this from happening again and again is also wrong. I wish I had the magic answer, but I don't. At least now I understand we have to ask questions and look for an answer, because not having this conversation means more kids will suffer like Alex and Issy, and that shouldn't be OK with anyone.