Sunday, 22 July 2012
Parents the world over with children who have autism are always worried about how the child will make friends. Sometimes they worry about the future and how the child will get along as adults.
The inability or awkwardness that comes with having autism sometimes leads individuals with autism to go online to make friends who also have the same or similar issues. This can be a great resource for individuals but it can also be full of pitfalls as well. Parents of children with special needs that affect the social abilities should be aware of the possible outcomes and try to educate their children. However, sometimes crimes happen and it is not committed by a predator but a news organization, according to some.
A 27 year old male, with autism, recently made friends with someone who he thought shared a similar interest in flatulence. He met this individual, identified as “suspect’ in a police report. The victim saved some texts from the suspect that showed that the suspect might not have the best interests of the victim in mind but after promising the victim he would not be forced to do anything “sexual” in nature, the victim agreed to meet the suspect in person to build upon their friendship.
The victim and suspect originally went to the victim’s house to spend time together. They left there to bring the suspect home where the victim was invited into the suspect’s house. The victim thought he’d be able to explore their mutual interest once inside; however, instead, he was raped.
NewsOn6.com reported on this story with the headline, “Victim Says Flatulence Fetish Led to Sexual Assault.” This has caused some outrage and some laughter within the readership and elsewhere online. Those is the autism community know and understand how hard it is for those with autism to make friends and to understand the consequences of actions and how to navigate tricky situations.
The report from NewsOn6.com made it out to be it was the victim’s fault for his rape. This would be akin to blaming a female rape victim for her rape for wearing a mini-skirt and going to a bar. This type of thinking has (socially speaking) outlawed. And so should this reporting as well.
The news story failed to report the victim’s statements such as the victim was “uncomfortable” and “not much of a fighter” and didn’t like to “get beat up.” These statements show that the person with autism does not know how to act in a capacity to shoulder any type of blame, even if it was okay to blame a victim in normal circumstances. That certainly is not the right thing to do in any case and those who are responsible for this story should make an apology for the headline.
Emily Malabey, president of the International Coalition of Autism and All Abilities (ICAA) issued anote on Facebook calling for a public apology from NewsOn6.com. The note reads, in part, “The reporting of this story was offensive, injurious and handled irresponsibly. Insinuating that a disabled person's alleged "fetish" "led to" his rape (and furthermore calling it a "sexual assault") is legally questionable and also is injurious to people in the Autism community. My organization ICAA (the international coalition for autism and all abilities) has been called upon to respond to this disgrace. Many of your readers [have] seen this as a cause for jokes and laughter and the expense of the victim, victimizing him yet again.”
While one with a sophomoric sense of humor can find the topic of the “fetish” humorous, there is nothing funny about the rape of a man with a disability. The fact that the headline states this is somehow the victim’s fault makes it even less humorous.
Ms. Malabey’s note continues, “It is my intention to ask you and your staff for an open and public apology to this victim and the Autism Community. April is Autism Awareness Month. With this new knowledge, please do some stories on how to help the Autism community. At this time according to the CDC, about 1 in 100 people are on the Autism Spectrum and the rate of growth is rapidly escalating. I look forward to your speedy response.”
Update: Mr. Ron Harig, director for NewsOn6.com was contacted requesting comments on this story and asked if an apology would be issued for the headline. His comments appear below in its entirety:
"Thanks for the feedback, Heather. It was an unusual story. Despite the distasteful subject matter, the writer tried to be factual and straightforward in reporting the incident and circumstances. The editorial judgment was that viewers might want to know that these kinds of things can happen in any community. There are no plans to issue an apology. Thanks again for your comments.:
NewsOn6.com has a "contact us" page which can be used to send comments and suggestions which was used by this Examiner to request the comments.
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