I was an 11 year old boy when I learned the word filicide. Her name was Erin Hollohan. She went to school with me. She rode my bus. She was the only other redhead on my bus, and we had somehow bonded over that... like we were going to need each other through the next few years. She was in my class.
She was not autistic.
Her father put a bullet in her brain one summer evening.
And I never got to tell her good-bye.
Here is a link to an article
On Tuesday morning, Nov 4, 2014, I was a 40 year-old man sitting at my table when I read a news story about a mom in Oregon who threw her 6 year-old son from a bridge into the Yaquina Bay. The body was recovered almost instantly. The mother arrested. The boy was autistic.
Her is a link to an article
Here are two examples of filicide. I hope you read the articles, or are already familiar with them, because there is a key difference in them. The neurology of the the victims is not mentioned in the first one.
Susan Smith, Marcus Wesson, Andrea Yates.
Gigi Jordan, Kelli Stapleton, Jillian McCabe.
Three murderers where the neurology of the children (16 total!) is never mentioned.
Three murderers (or attempted murders) where the neurology of the children (2 total) is mentioned.
Filicide - noun - the act of killing one's son or daughter.
Today I find myself wanting to break my silence on this topic. After McCabe threw her boy (London) from a bridge, I could no longer stand on the sidelines of what has become quite the controversy in my community. I am raising an 8 year-old boy with autism. His name is Jack. Life can be difficult at times. Sometimes I even need a break. Sometimes I will walk out of the house and mumble to myself all the way around the block. Sometimes I will call my mom, or a friend just to talk. Sometimes, I will feel sorry for myself. Sometimes, I will write a blog or post something on Facebook because I really, really want someone to say "You're doing a great job". Sometimes I want validation. Sometimes I want to escape. Sometimes I feel like my life is harder than yours, and sometimes I don't.
I have NEVER wanted to throw my son off a fucking bridge.
So starts the great divide in my Autism community. Sometimes in whispers and sometimes in shouts the community will say "I get it"; "We all have a breaking point"; "She just needed more services"; "How can we reach out, so that this won't happen again!?"
And it's usually tempered with "Let me clearly state, I don't condone murder, but..."
In cases of filicide, the neurology of the victim is irrelevant.
In fact, mentioning it is harmful to our community. It suddenly becomes an outlet, an excuse, a disorder, an anxiety that accomplishes nothing more than blaming the victim.
The Neurology of the perpetrator is the key and, eventually, what will be on trial... both in court and in public opinion. When Susan Smith drove her children into a lake nobody said "Let me clearly state, I don't condone murder, but her boyfriend really was wealthy". When Marcus Wesson killed 9 of his kids, nobody said "Let me clearly state, I don't condone murder, but those kids WERE going to be exposed to a false God". Nobody said "I get it". Nobody said "Have you walked a mile in their shoes?" Nobody said "Judge not lest ye be judged".
The trials and news reports simply and quickly and appropriately attacked neurology and psychology of the killers. Clinical words like psychopath, sociopath, and narcissist were bandied about. Less Clinical words like crazy, insane, and monster were bandied about as well.
The most recent of these murders (McCabe) was presented to me in an article that ended with these words : McCabe asked for help before committing the most horrible act a parent can commit. Friends and family who read her plea could never have fathomed that this would be the outcome. As parents, we can take something away from this tragedy: Watch and listen. When a fellow parent begs for help, don't hesitate to reach out.
My community has made this a rallying cry for better services, for more funding, for more awareness. Every time a "solution" is brought up, however, I cringe at the devaluation of London's life a little bit more. One more person tacitly saying that "they understand". One more person blaming the victim.
Erin Hollohan was killed by her father 28 years ago. Never once have I heard something like "If only Erin had done better in school, he wouldn't have been so unhappy".
The fight for better services and support are very important to our community, but not on the backs of our murdered children.
There may very well be a monster in the room, but his name is not Autism.