Washington, DC – As the nation has reacted with outrage to the incident in Bay Village, Ohio where a teenager with autism was doused with urine instead of ice water in a fake Ice Bucket Challenge, The Arc is calling on the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office to charge the five teenagers identified in the case to the fullest extent of the law.
“The perpetrators of this horrific act, who reportedly were neighborhood friends of the victim, need to be held accountable for their behavior. While some seek to characterize what was done to this teen as an innocent prank, it is anything but. Call it what it is – it was an assault and abuse. These kinds of acts are an outright attack on the humanity of people with autism and other intellectual or developmental disabilities in Ohio and nationwide. There is no possible excuse for this type of assault and the perpetrators should be prosecuted,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.
“Unfortunately, people with disabilities experience violence and abuse at high rates, often at the hands of abusers who are known to them. Many have a strong need to feel accepted and fit in which can, at times, lead them into places and situations with people who they think are their friends, but who are anything but. When abuse or other violent acts are committed, whether by friends or complete strangers, our legal system must respond. In this case, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office must send a message that will stop future perpetrators in their tracks – it is not okay to attack a person with a disability,” Berns added.
The Arc has a long history of standing up for the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), and supporting them to do the same, when they find themselves in dangerous situations and in our legal system. Most recently, last year, The Arc was awarded a two-year grant for $400,000 by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to develop the National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability (NCCJD). This 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 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 and technical assistance for law enforcement agencies that will support police departments like Bay Village’s force, as well as prosecutor’s offices, such as the office in Cuyahoga County, to administer justice for people with disabilities. And The Arc supports people with I/DD to be prepared for situations like these, connect them with other survivors of abuse and bullying, and find a collective voice to stand up against it.
The Arc also runs the Autism NOW Center, an online resource center that helps people weed through the volumes of information found online about autism spectrum disorders and provide high-quality, vetted resources and information to people with autism and other developmental disabilities, their family, friends, colleagues, teachers, employers and others.
“Never should a human have to endure such needless acts of abuse. It is never justified and it is never the victim’s fault for they may not even know why they were treated the way they were, but there are people who do. The ones who do know why this kind of abuse is so wrong are the ones who stand together, like The Arc and our chapters, which stand united to push for these random acts of abuse to be punished by law. Random acts of kindness make a better person. Be good to those in need and one day the favor will be returned twofold,” Amy Goodman, Co-Director of the Autism NOW Center.
“We cannot stand by and accept this horrific act- the prosecutors know what they must do and they must do it swiftly to send the message that attacks on people with disabilities will not be tolerated and will be punished,” Cindy Norwood, Executive Director, The Arc of Greater Cleveland.