I am NOT Kelli Stapleton. By Juniper RussoI posted on Facebook yesterday about how sick I am of people defending the murderers of autistic children. When a disabled child is killed by the hands of his or her own parent, it’s almost always presented by the media as a tragedy caused by a lack of resources. Or, worse, it’s blamed on a parent’s stress or mental illness, which not only fails to hold the parent accountable, but also promotes the belief that mentally ill parents are unfit to raise children.
Yet, as always, when I posted saying that Kelli Stapleton is a coldblooded killer, I got the same response as always— another variation of “But she could have been you.”
No. She really couldn’t have. And I’m tired— way past tired, in fact— of people telling me that. Kelli Stapleton couldn’t have been me, because I couldn’t have attempted to murder my child. When I say this, I almost always have people accuse me of just “not understanding.” They say that I don’t know what it’s like to live in poverty, or to struggle with mental illness, or to have a child who is “low-function.” After all, what other reason could I have for actually giving a fuck about my kids?
But none of those things are even remotely true. The thing that keeps me from murdering my kids isn’t that I’m lucky or rich. It’s that I love my kids and see them as human beings.
I’ve been working a lot on radical honesty, even when it hurts, so, despite the over-exposure here… I’m going to tell you all what I told the person who said I just don’t “get it.”
I have been living with mental illness my whole life. I was diagnosed at the ripe old age of four. I’ve been hospitalized twice.
I have a special-needs child and may very well have two of them. My oldest was an extraordinarily difficult toddler and an even more difficult baby. She screamed for hours and hours out of every day until she was about four, and even now, though I love her with every beat of my heart, there are many times that I feel overwhelmed.
I had ZERO support caring for my oldest child until about three years ago— financially or emotionally. I was twenty years old and was popped onto the roller-coaster of special-needs motherhood without a seatbelt. I grossed $5,200 the year she was born and only a thousand more than that the year after.
I’ve been hungry, and I’ve been poor, and I’ve been unable to get medical care when I desperately needed it. I’ve written so many suicide notes to my kids that I honest-to-god have lost count. I have been in deeper and darker places than I would wish on my worst enemies.
I don’t want to think about how many times I’ve come close to hurting myself— how many times my children were the only thing standing between a razor and a wrist.
But do you want to know how many times I’ve come close to hurting my kids? Not once.
Not. one. time.
Not one time— and that’s not because I’m rich or patient or have tons of people to turn to for help. It’s because I love my children and I am not a murderer.
Imagine if the epidemic of murder were happening to any other minority. Imagine if mothers were killing their kids left and right because their kids were black, or gay, or ugly, or fat. Would our media be applauding them and telling the murderers that THEY’RE the victims? Would we be saying, “Oh, but there aren’t enough resources for fat kids, and we need more services to cure childhood obesity so that fat kids’ parents don’t have to be ashamed?” I sure do hope not.
So why is it okay when the child is autistic?
There is genocide against disabled people happening in our own country in the hands of the people who are supposed to care for them the most. If that’s not something to be angry about, I don’t know what is. I don’t care if you think this makes me judgmental. I don’t care if you can’t comprehend a parent’s ability to love a child who is different. I will, until the day I die, defend my children’s right to exist. And that means calling people like Kelli Stapleton out.
It is not okay to kill disabled children. I’ts not mercy. It’s not excusable. It’s not understandable. It’s not a tragedy. It is murder.