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Geri Jewell

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Geri-ism #2: Unmasking the Real Disabilities

Posted: 11/ 8/2011 3:19 pm

A couple of days ago I had completed this blog, but I had involuntary movement from cerebral palsy and accidentally deleted the entire document. I was so frustrated, as I had spent almost two hours composing it. However, I have always believed that everything happens for a reason -- and once again, I understand now why I had to write my blog today rather than earlier.

After going online last night, I found that I had received several emails (including a Facebook post) regarding the controversial YouTube video that has circulated around the Internet and appeared on the news. It involves the beating of a 16-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. The perpetrators were the girls' parents -- primarily her father, Judge William Adams, who serves as a family law judge in Texas.

It was very graphic and painful to watch, but I forced myself to see the whole thing through. I counted no less than 18 strikes to her with two leather belts. Seventeen of those were from her father, one from her mother. She was beaten for using the Internet to download music and games that were unavailable for purchase at the time.

Why did so many people send me the video? Obviously, it's because the daughter has ataxic cerebral palsy, and people felt that given that I'm a public figure and an advocate for people with disabilities, I should make a public comment about it.

I have chosen not to change the original title of my first (deleted) blog, but have only added the story of the video in question. Abuse of people with disabilities is nothing new; in fact, there is an entire Facebook page titled "Cerebral Palsy, Stop the Abuse!" I myself have been subjected to various abuses in my own life, but, I thank God, never at the hands of my own parents. In fact, the secure foundation that my own family provided me with gave me the courage and strength to withstand abuse later in life.

In watching the video of Judge William Adams whipping his daughter mercilessly, we know that this was not the first time. This kind of abuse is a pattern and embraces huge family dysfunction, and although the daughter having CP is not really the issue, it has struck a chord worldwide, with everyone wondering how a father could beat his daughter who has CP. I say abuse is abuse, no matter who is being brutally whipped.

I also am appalled that this man is getting off with a slap on the wrist! At the very least, he should step down from his post as a judge in any courtroom, period. Furthermore, his condoning his actions, saying that he has since apologized for losing his temper but that he was within his parental right to discipline his daughter, tells me that his daughter isn't the one who has a disability; rather, he does. His disability is that of a habitual abuser in a position of power.

Aside from the controversy over this video itself, the abuse of people with disabilities is quite high, and, for the most part, goes unreported. The vicious crimes are just as high as the crimes against any other minority group. No, we have never seen people burning our wheelchairs on front lawns or forcing us to ride at the back of the bus, but we were the target of the "ugly laws."

In the early to mid 1900s, it was illegal to be ugly on the streets of some mainstream American cities. Punishment ranged from incarceration to fines of up to $50 for each ugly offense. The law mainly targeted people who had been diseased, maimed, mutilated or deformed to the point of being considered an unsightly or disgusting object or an improper person to be allowed to be seen in public.

Knowing that a law existed to keep people with disabilities hidden, I know that abuse of people with disabilities was (and still is) kept largely hidden, as well. Let's unmask the real disabilities that threaten all of us -- and are indeed ugly. They are not cerebral palsy, or being wheelchair-bound, or having AIDS; the real disabilities in life are behavior that threatens the happiness and livelihood of all people. They are hatred, prejudice, abuse, deception, false pride, hypocrisy, greed and despair. In ripping the mask off of these "ugly" offenses to humankind, all the "perceived disabilities" become visions of courage, perseverance and beauty in the celebration of the human spirit.