September 8, 2014

Suffering is not a Spectator Sport

I've been thinking about something for a few days. I'm not quite sure if it's worthy of a full blog post or if I'll be able to accurately or adequately express these thoughts. But I'll try.

Kelli Stapleton, a year after she attempted to kill both herself and her daughter, plead guilty to first degree child abuse. Kelli's family has been in my thoughts for a long time. As the parent of a child with severe behavioral issues, this case evokes some pretty complex emotions for me.

This recent news has also brought up the same discussions (I use the term loosely) on Facebook, the same "you're with us or against us" battles between autistic adults and parents of autistic kids. I won't go into that today.

Because what I've been thinking about isn't that. It's about how we all have the liberty to talk about this. How freely we blame, and pontificate, and judge and analyze and criticize. And how, for all except a few who do know and care about Kelli personally, this all smacks of so much gossip. How it is so easy to just speculate and fill in missing pieces, and be outside of—and above—it all.

But if this were your best friend, if this were your family, if this were YOU (and no one should be so smug as to think it couldn't be), these horrible events would be nothing short of a tragedy. It would be devastating to so many lives that you cared about. The Stapletons are living this nightmare.

And yes, we can blame Kelli for the acts that brought them to this tragic place. Although I do believe this is a complex situation, and I do believe that ANY of us could be brought to a breaking point, Kelli is, in the end, guilty.

But how, with all our Internet Outrage, are we actually helping anyone?

While we're thankful that Issy has (from what I understand) recovered physically from the incident, have we succeeded in getting Issy a safe environment where she can learn and be safe?

How does it help Kelli's other children to call her a monster? Children who, while trying to come to terms with the destruction of everything they knew, also miss the woman who loved them more than anyone in the world?

And while we're bickering over when and where it is appropriate to have conversations about better family support services, how are we helping Kelli's husband, a man who now has a family to raise by himself, including an autistic daughter, and must need more support than ever?

These are real people we're talking about. This is not reality TV or some kind of spectator sport. This is a family who is hurting. And I hurt for them too.


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