As a disabled person I know far too well the harms of being vulnerable and unable to care for myself, and being gaslighted, financially abused, sexually abused, and physically harmed. This was all done in the justification that it was for ‘my own good’ and I it was because I was such a burden and so difficult to ‘care for.’
Predators often look like ‘good people’ when you’re disabled and you’re both in the public eye. They thrive on the spotlight and attention they get from others for being such ‘an angel’ to take care of someone disabled like me.
When in a hospital or doctor’s office, oh wow, the abuser comes alive with a song and dance, where they martyr themselves or saint themselves, to get the kudos from doctors, nurses and other visitors. They revel in the glory of attention.
I remember being told I was so lucky to have someone who cared for me so much by a nurse once … and they were referring to the giant performance my abuser just displayed and I was unable to speak and correct them. At that time I was malnourished and lacked even the most basic health care unless my symptoms were so bad I had to be picked up by an ambulance and hospitalized.
The nurse glorified my abuser to me. Wasn’t I the lucky one?
This is the same abuser who’d trigger my seizures and therefore my amnesia to cover their handiwork, and then later blame my seizures for the ample amount of black and blue mottling my skin always showed.
I’d be gaslighted with ‘reminders’ of what I had forgotten due to amnesia and cognitive fog. I used to have the nickname “Fifty First Dates” for a reason. This monster could lie with a new lie every time and I’d not know the difference. When my memory started improving a bit and I rebuffed their version of my life experiences … my truth was forcibly re-written for me with their narrative and ability to trigger my overload, seizures and therefore instigate my amnesia to hide it. I was often told I was ‘too ill’ or ‘too disabled’ to know what my needs were, and any opinion on any matter, including food choices, was moot.
Having the experience of not being able to speak often (selective mutism) and my body does tics, tremors and even seizures when in public due to sensory load, I’ve often been considered intellectually absent or disabled, and spoken in front of like I don’t exist. Even over my head like I’m a small child with a parent, instead of a disabled adult with speech and cognitive complications.
Folks who dont’ know me, and first meet me in person, often assume I don’t understand the big world around me. Interestingly enough, people who know me online only can’t see my disabilities because I can type far easier than speak – tell me I’m not disabled enough to have an opinion that matters. To be clear: my paperwork lists me as ‘severely disabled’ and I need help with basic self-care like taking a shower, support using the bathroom, my meals cooked for me and more.
I am an Autistic who thinks in visual thoughts and almost rarely thinks with words. Some might say I see my thoughts in images, but that is an incredibly rudimentary description of it but does tend to help others understand more.
My thoughts and memories are visible to me and always on the left side. I suppose it would be like dreaming for those who don’t have this type of thinking, but dreaming while awake but it’s my thoughts, memories and information stored away in a visual constellation.
I have to translate these visual thoughts into language. When I’m tired, or cognitive fog fluctuates, I’m left unable to hyperfocus at the level needed to communicate with spoken language.
Verbal speech is the first to leave me. Written words go next. However, ASL (American Sign Language) stays with me almost always until I hit a hard seizure. ASL is a visual language and requires far less cognitive and hyper focus than verbal words. It taxes my brain far less than verbal language.
There’s been many incidents where I’m to sign medical or official paperwork but the paper is automatically handed over to the person who brought me in for the appointment instead.
Hello, I’m right here.
Thankfully at this point in my life, I’ve survived the predator posing as my partner and caregiver. I almost didn’t. Now, I am respected and truly loved and understood by my husband Bill. Now, when someone is so presumptive to assume my competence (or lack thereof), Bill simply hands me the paper and pen so I can sign. I know the first few times he experienced this phenomenon, it shocked him.
There needs to be a lot more oversight in the rampant abuse disabled people receive from their caregivers and others taking advantage of them.
My abuser pushed hard for me to give them power of several types, including something called power of attorney. This monster tried to convince people close to me I was in a psychotic break and needed 5150 hospitalization. It was part of their attempt to push me into conservatorship so they could control me even more.
Of course, this predator was delusional because no court would ever grant them conservatorship over me – and I’d never grant them power of attorney over me. If conservatorship had to be done for my own stability and wellness, the courts would never even considered this person as eligible to be appointed as my guardian. But that didn’t stop them from trying.
I’ve also had this same predator, after a couple of years mooching off of my income and housing, try to make me seem completely dependent on them so they could generate an income from being designated as my IHSS person. Of course, I still wouldn’t be looked after, I’d just be commodified and been made to suffer even more abuse.
This monster even demanded money from the IHSS office after I kicked them out of my house and reported them to the police. They cleaned out my bank account on the way out the door and then demanded more. This was after they held me hostage and attempted to get me hospitalized so they could then push for conservatorship.
The reason for all of this? Because they wanted to move me out of state against my will, away from my children, and keep financially abusing me. I had to learn the hard way how astoundingly typical it is for caregivers to look ‘good’ to the public and behave completely differently when alone. It’s a fucking performance and attention-need for some of them and they thrive, thrive, thrive on it.
The general public seems happy to participate in these delusions of grandeur and praise abusers for their ‘good work’ and unknowingly participate in the abuse cycle.
Now, there are incredible caregivers who do exist out there. They absolutely are needed and deserve far more support than they receive. Unfortunately, they are rare in my experience.
After the one abuser was ejected from my life, others introduced themselves. Again, in the guise of ‘helping me’ and getting paid monthly for their work via IHSS. These folks, abused the system too. I had one pressure me to sign paychecks they didn’t earn every two weeks for months and months. I didn’t have the energy or ability at that point to tell them to fire them. The drama ensued each time was exhausting and I always gave in to signing the damn timesheet.
Please know, not all caregivers are like this. There are incredible people out there who are caregivers. When you find a good caregiver, please support them. They are so needed. Unfortunately, I find good caregivers to be exceptional and not common.
The question then becomes: How can you tell the difference between a good caregiver and an abuser/caregiver when they present the same characteristics of ‘caring’ to outsiders?
Abuse for disabled people is rampant, pervasive and runs the full gamut of abuse whether emotional, spiritual, physical, financial, sexual and more.
Unfortunately, I’m not the only one who’s had my illness weaponized against me. I’ve seen families weaponize the disabled people’s illness against them again and again. I’ve seen people like me abused and used by their families, while being for every ill and wrong anyone in the family experiences.
I’ve met people living with severe mental illness that have had their families create a high-stressed environment knowing it’ll trigger a need for a 5150 check – and get the person hospitalized. Once this person is on a hold, their bank account is wiped out and gone by the time they return. This type of abuse is far more common than most people realize. Abusers work the system for their own agenda, and they’re very good at it too. Often the disabled person is earmarked as the problem in reports when in reality they’re expressing symptoms of abuse.
I’ve heard of disabled people making reports to the police about abuse and then when the officer arrive, they were chided and told they weren’t being abused. They were instructed to stop calling for help.I know when I’m ill and lacking insight, I want to be helped even if I don’t understand it at the time. I also know how easy it is for abuse to occur, and continue for the entire life of a disabled person. Time after time after time, the abuser is rewarded with praise for their hard work and taking on such a “burden.”
When the abuse escalates to murder, these abusive caregivers are given the public’s sympathy, which only helps them glorify themselves even more.
There needs to be so much more attention drawn to what abuse of disabled people looks like to outsiders. There needs to be more attention on how to recognize when disabled and vulnerable people are being abused.
There needs to be a better system to report these types of abuses and get actual help. Otherwise reporting the abuse only brings more abuse as punishment when law enforcement and EMTs leave.
We disabled, vulnerable or Autistic people need to be educated on what abuse looks like, the patterns of abuse, and where to get real help to make it stop.
Just like other monsters, an abuser plays victim and justified their behaviors and actions. They justify the abuse based on ‘how hard’ it is to care for the disabled person – and so do others.
When we disabled people are murdered by our caregivers, parents or other loved ones, they get the sympathy because it’s so ‘hard’ to deal with us. Repeatedly, murder gets justified because we’re disabled and the abuser gets a lighter sentence than typical for murder. Even more dehumanizing is our names and experiences are shoved off as meaningless and then forgotten. All sympathy is directed to the murderer instead. The ableism rampant in typical society justifies caregivers who murder.
Fillicide and murder are such an issue in the Autistic community we have a yearly Disability Day of Mourning to remember those of us lost to abuse and murder. It happens virtually this year on March 1.