Few crimes are more wicked than those committed against we who have disabilities. Fear of abandonment and reprisal makes us less likely than others to report being abused or mistreated. Crimes against us wound our sense of trust particularly deeply, especially if perpetrators are people on whom we have relied not just for help with everyday needs. It takes a tremendous effort and genuine courage for a person whose disability affects their communication skills to speak out about what has been done to them.
It is, sadly, not surprising in the least to hear recent allegations that a large number of rape and sexual assault crimes against people with disability have not been investigated in the State of South Australia. In a recent trial in that State, some charges had to be dropped because the alleged victims were unable to give evidence. Fresh charges of sexual crimes against other victims have since been laid.
One person championing these people’s cause is Kelly Vincent, an MP for the Dignity for Disability party. But Ms Vincent also supported legislation to introduce euthanasia in South Australia, and this is still passing through the Legislature there.
The question must be asked: how would the introduction of euthanasia to South Australia or anywhere else impact on those who are already legally voiceless to a large degree, as this case demonstrates? Those already ignored or frustrated by the Court System because of their disabilities would surely not be properly heard when end of life decisions are being made.
In countries where euthanasia is already legal, an alarming proportion of deaths occur without victims’ consent. How likely is it that consent will not be sought from someone assumed unable to communicate it?
The availability of euthanasia would betray disabled victims of violence, sexual assault or rape. Crimes that strip away victims’ confidence, trust, and sense of self esteem make people even more susceptible to the pro-euthanasia message that some lives are not worth living.
So if Kelly Vincent and Dignity for Disability are serious about giving people with disabilities a voice in the legal system – a voice to which we all have a genuine right – then they must stop advocating euthanasia, that would lead to more people with communication difficulties becoming victims.