The Arc Raises Questions in Case of Shocking Abuse and Neglect against Teenager in Anderson, Indiana

Indianapolis, IN – Fifteen years old and weighing less than 40 pounds.  Covered in feces and locked in a room, alone and for an unknown amount of time, by her grandfather.  The police reports released in Anderson, Indiana about the shocking abuse against a teenager with a disability raise significant questions about how this situation could go unnoticed in the community and unmonitored by a litany of state agencies which allowed this child to fall off the radar.

It has been reported the girl was removed from school to be home schooled – Indiana law does not require ongoing involvement from public schools when a family removes a child to be home schooled. Indiana’s Department of Children’s Services (DCS) had contact with the family at one time, but the case was closed.  The police have learned that the child lost access to Medicaid which helped cover nutritional supplements, but as there is no requirement for Medicaid case workers to follow up in such cases, this loss of coverage went unnoticed.

“This is a tragic situation that should never have happened.  The question now is, what can we as a community of advocates, state agencies, and individuals do to learn what went so terribly wrong for this young girl, and how can we all seek and act on ways to keep others safe and free from harm,” said John Dickerson, Executive Director of The Arc of Indiana.

“This is a shameful case of abuse and neglect that should force the system and society to think about how this young girl was hidden in plain sight, starving and without access to medical care, and to force action to prevent something like this from ever happening again.  People with disabilities are far too often victimized, without regard for their basic human rights.  And now this teenager is fighting for her life,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability (NCCJD) is operated by The Arc and is the first national effort of its kind to bring together both victim and suspect/offender issues involving people with I/DD under one roof.  NCCJD is a national clearinghouse for research, information, evaluation, training and technical assistance for criminal justice and disability professionals and other advocates that will build their capacity to better identify and meet the needs of people with I/DD, whose disability often goes unrecognized, and who are overrepresented in the nation’s criminal justice system.  Currently, NCCJD is developing training for law enforcement, victim service providers and legal professionals that will support police departments, prosecutor’s offices, and other professionals in the criminal justice system to effectively and fairly administer justice for people with disabilities.

NCCJD is a much needed resource for the Anderson, Indiana police force and local prosecutors as they pursue this case and will continue to be a resource for many other communities facing similar tragedies. Persons with disabilities are nearly three times more likely to be victimized – people with cognitive disabilities have the highest rate of victimization.  Children with intellectual disabilities are at twice the risk of physical and sexual abuse compared to children without disabilities.

The Arc Advocacy Network in Indiana can provide information, referral and advocacy to assist and guide individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families in understanding and applying for government programs, including Medicaid and home and community based services through the Medicaid Waiver program.  It can also serve as a resource to schools and local public and private agencies serving children and adults with disabilities.

Finally, The Arc has launched an online pledge to generate support to end acts of violence, abuse, and bullying of people I/DD.  The Arc and The Arc of Indiana encourage members of the public to sign this pledge to show their support.

Report Highlights Severe Abuse of People with Disabilities Abroad

The International Task Force of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) today released a report that highlights examples of the severe abuse and neglect of individuals with disabilities around the World.  The report, Neglected and Abused Abroad: A Look at the Severe Mistreatment of Individuals with Disabilities Around the World and How the U.S. Can Help, highlights just a few examples of the horrible treatment, abuse, and discrimination faced by individuals with a variety of disabilities in other countries. 

Some examples of abuse include:

  • In Ghana, people with intellectual and mental health disabilities suffer severe abuse in psychiatric institutions and “healing centers.”  Thousands of people are forced to live in these institutions, often against their will and with little possibility of challenging their confinement;
  • In Kenya, a 10-year old girl who is deaf was raped but faces barriers in the justice system because of her disability;
  • In Mexico, children with intellectual disabilities were  abandoned at a private facility without any documentation on their diagnosis or even their names;
  • Children in Paraguay were found in cells with walls smeared with excrement and reeking of urine; and
  • In Russia, people with physical disabilities are prisoners in their own homes because of the widespread physical inaccessibility of Russian cities.

“Our country has an obligation to share our knowledge of how to ensure  children and adults with disabilities live as full citizens, with dignity and independence,” said CCD Chair, Katy Neas of Easter Seals.  “It is imperative that the United States show our leadership by ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities this fall.”

The full report is available at: http://www.c-c-d.org/fichiers/CCD_Inter_TF-Neglected_and_Abused_Abroad.pdf

The CCD International Task Force calls on the United States Senate to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – the CRPD.  Through ratification of this important treaty, the United States will be in a much better position under international law to influence, train, assist, and if necessary use diplomatic pressure to work towards the equal rights and treatment of individuals with disabilities across the world – rights which have existed in the United States for years.

CCD is a coalition of over 100 national consumer, advocacy, provider and professional organizations working together to advocate for national public policy that ensures the self-determination, independence, empowerment, integration and inclusion of children and adults with disabilities in all aspects of society.  For years, the coalition and its members have been calling on the U.S. to ratify the CRPD protecting the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.  CCD calls on the entire U.S. Senate to quickly provide its advice and consent to the treaty and restore the United States to a global leadership position on disability and human rights. 

The Arc of Connecticut Applauds Senator Murphy’s Quick Action on Abuse and Neglect of Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Urges A Broad Investigation

Hartford, CT – The Hartford Courant’s series on deaths, abuse, and neglect of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) sheds light on the need for more oversight and resources for the state’s system.  Incidents occurred throughout the sector, from the last remaining institution in Southbury, to state and private run homes, to family settings.  On the heels of the paper’s reporting, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy has called for a federal investigation into deaths at federally financed facilities.  The Arc supports an investigation, but one that looks at all settings of care because unfortunately, deaths due to abuse and neglect occur across the system, not just in private care settings.

“We applaud Senator Murphy’s swift call for an investigation into these incidents across our system of care for people with I/DD, and we look forward to working with him to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities in Connecticut.  Any investigation has to go further than just looking at privately run settings – the data show that in Connecticut, these cases occurred in all settings that people with I/DD live in, from our institution to state run facilities to privately run homes to family settings.  In order to make real progress in preventing deaths caused by abuse and neglect, we must have a broad conversation that looks at all of these settings, and takes a hard look at what we are investing in our fellow Connecticut residents.

“Budget cuts aren’t just about dollars, cents, and deficit projections – the lives of people are at stake.  When we have a system that provides wages that don’t reflect the importance of the work carried out, and training that doesn’t prepare people for the situations they will face, we are putting lives at risk.  There are many facets to this problem, and The Arc will continue to work with families, other organizations serving people with disabilities, Senator Murphy, and other stakeholders to end horrific mistreatment of people with I/DD,” said Leslie Simoes, Executive Director of The Arc of Connecticut.

The Arc is eager to take a leadership role in making the system better for everyone we support including placing the investigations in the hands of an independent entity with power to require meaningful remedial relief and making the results of investigations public so that there is transparency in what is going on and how government is responding.   Another systemic change would include providing families with copies of abuse investigations and the remedial recommendations; this is a huge longstanding deficiency in the investigations conducted by Office of Protection and Advocacy and The Department of Developmental Services (DDS) that has gone unchanged for far too long.

Contact: Leslie Simoes, Executive Director, The Arc Connecticut, lsimoes@arcofct.org, (860) 246-6400 x101

The Arc of Maryland Responds to Abuse Case Involving a Man with an Intellectual Disability

Annapolis, MD – The Arc of Maryland released the following statement in response to an abuse case involving a man with intellectual disabilities (ID) in Columbia, MD. Earlier this week, a house manager at a group home for individuals with ID was charged with multiple counts of assault and reckless endangerment for physically abusing a resident in the house where she worked.  The abuse of the resident was caught on film and has since been posted online on a number of websites.

“For over 60 years, The Arc of Maryland has advocated for human and civil rights for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. With this lens we must comment on the recent release of a video which depicts a staff member at a privately-operated group home in Maryland physically abusing residents. We are profoundly disturbed by the event and the video. This is obviously heinous and unacceptable behavior. Our primary thoughts and concerns are for the individuals and families victimized in this situation. We commend the Howard County police department for their rapid response upon learning of the situation,” said Carol Fried, President, The Arc of Maryland and Kate Fialkowski, Executive Director, The Arc of Maryland.

Important Survey from the Disability and Abuse Project of Spectrum Institute

Your Participation is Appreciated

A startling fact that many not be aware of is that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are not only more likely to be victims of abuse, but they are more likely to be victimized repeatedly.

Struck by the number of abuse cases against individuals with disabilities appearing in the media, the Disability and Abuse Project of Spectrum Institute created a survey on the attitudes, beliefs and experiences of many demographic groups (including individuals with disabilities) that have encountered abuse as victims and through their profession.   The survey was created to help advocates and professionals better understand what victims are saying about their abuse experiences and how professionals view their experiences with abuse/crime victims.

This survey will provide professionals in the disability field useful information that can help better serve our community.  The survey takes about 8 minutes, is completely anonymous, and all results will be published online.

Whether you are a person with a disability, a family member of someone with a disability or a professional in the disability field, you are welcome to take this survey. Over 2300 have already let their voices be heard, make sure yours is one of them!

The Arc Calls for Boycott of ‘Horror’ Attraction “Pennhurst Asylum”

Assails Use of Notorious Institution as Halloween Fright House

If there is any ‘haunting’ on the 110-acre former site of the Pennhurst State School and Hospital in East Vincent Township, PA, it is in the dark vestiges of an institution where residents with disabilities were abused, neglected, beaten, and sexually assaulted.

Shockingly, the suburban Philadelphia Pennhurst site, which closed in 1987, has now become the location that two developers are using to stage a commercial horror house attraction, scheduled to open to the public on Friday, September 24th, called “Pennhurst Asylum.”

The Arc, The Arc of Pennsylvania, The Arc of Chester County, and hundreds of advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in neighboring states are calling on their members and the public to boycott the new attraction which desecrates one of our nation’s most notorious state institutions.

U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Broderick ruled against Pennhurst in a 1977 class action suit finding the institution guilty of violating patient’s constitutional rights. When it was forced to close in 1987 in the wake of allegations of abuse, it sparked the process of deinstitutionalization; the remaining 460 patients were discharged to live in the community, transferred to other facilities or provided with treatment plans guided by family members.

The Arc of Pennsylvania was a key plaintiff in the litigation that resulted in Pennhurst’s closure to stop overcrowding and abuse sending a strong message about the mistreatment of this vulnerable population.

“This outrageous, offensive and disgraceful business venture is an assault on the historical memory of Pennhurst and diminishes the pain of real people with disabilities who endured unspeakable abuse within its walls. “Pennhurst Asylum” exploits the suffering that took place there and undermines meaningful efforts to eradicate stereotypes and negative perceptions that persist in society against people with disabilities,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

This fright-filled Halloween themed atrocity, according to property owner Richard Chakejian and his partner Randy Bates, aims to attract customers between 12 and 20 years old. Visitors will be “entertained” and scared by an electro-shock therapy scene with a Frankenstein-like monster; an autopsy room will contain some artifacts that the developers said were found on the property.

Reports of the torso of a female monster, complete with a skeleton face in the autopsy room, is said to “mimic” former residents of Pennhurst or people with disabilities. It’s been reported that in response to these claims, Chakejian said, “This is all traditional Halloween fun.”

Despite a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, by a resident of the East Vincent Township, seeking a court injunction to halt the property development of the Pennhurst property, Chakejian in partnership with Bates, who owns and operates Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride in Glen Mills, PA, are moving forward.

“The Arc is making a plea to all people of good conscience to join us in standing against the opening of this truly horrifying project as well as Mr. Bates’ other attraction, The Bates Motel/Haunted Hayride. We want to send a strong message to business people such as Mr. Bates that the public will not tolerate commercial enterprises which are so disrespectful of a large group of people. While we have come far in the struggle to ensure that people with disabilities are not abused, neglected or mistreated, the “Pennhurst Asylum” is an ugly reminder of how far we have to go,” Berns said.