Wednesday, March 9, 2011

JFActivist: Changing Stereotypes to Combat Disability Hate Crimes

By Jack Levin

Hate crimes against people with disabilities are widespread and often involve extraordinary levels of sadism. The first step in combating these shameful incidents is an acknowledgment that they exist.

In February 2010, Jennifer Daugherty, a 30-year-old, mentally challenged woman from Greensburg, Pa., was brutally murdered by six people pretending to be her good friends...The sadistic attack on Daugherty was anything but unique. Still, few Americans are aware of the special vulnerability of people with emotional, intellectual and physical disabilities to extraordinary violence. Thinking of crimes inspired by hate or bias, most people conjure an image of a burning cross on the lawn of a black family, or swastikas scrawled on the walls of a synagogue...

But the same Americans may have legal and emotional “tunnel vision,” not seeing a hate crime in the brutal murder of Jennifer Daugherty, even though she was apparently singled out only because of her intellectual deficit.

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