Associated Press: Woman who held disabled people captive gets life in prison

6 Nov

Sometimes people who misunderstand the disability rights movement, the neurodiversity movement or ideas like disability acceptance will try to characterize these movements as denialist.  They deny disability.  They deny challenges.  They “whitewash” disability.

It’s all bogus, but it’s a common theme.

Why bring that up, given the title of this article?  Well, here’s the news story: Woman who held disabled people captive gets life in prison.  Here’s the start of that story:

PHILADELPHIA (AP) A woman who kept mentally disabled adults captive in the basement of a Philadelphia home and in other states for their disability checks was sentenced Thursday to life in prison.

Linda Weston, 55, apologized during the hearing, saying: “I believe in God and God knows what happened.”

U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe replied that: “There are a lot of people in this courtroom who know what happened too,” according to

Thank you Judge Cynthia Rufe.  Thank you the strong sentence.  Thank you for the message that there is no excuse for what Linda Weston did.

Often I will post such stories here and leave it at that–here’s the horrible thing and damned right this person deserves to be put away for life.

But the conversation elsewhere will often focus on “this is why disability is so bad”.  Sure, they don’t write it in exactly those words, but the message is basically that.  It’s used to justify alternative (aka fake) medicine or promoting vaccine fears (ostensibly to keep others from facing the fate of being abused like the people in the story above).  All with sly attacks on “well, the neurodiverse just accept this”.

Hell no, we don’t.

Acceptance isn’t denial.  It isn’t giving up. It isn’t walking away from fights.  Acceptance is hard.  For a parent acceptance means facing reality head on and saying, “I will do what I can to change today’s reality to make a better place for my kid”.

No amount of bleach, chelation, vitamins, hyperbaric oxygen, energy medicine, homeopathy or any of those alternatives to medicine will make the evil people in the world go away.  Nor will they cure autism, but let’s move on.

We need a society that will make the bad people look elsewhere than at people with disabilities.  We need laws, law enforcement and courts that work to protect disabled people.  We need regular citizens who see it as their duty to help in these efforts.

And if history tells us anything–heck, if just looking around the world today tells us anything–it’s that making societies that will stand up for the rights of the disabled is hard.  Not impossible, but hard.  Because in the very recent past, many would have looked the other way or downplayed the actions of this horrible woman.   They would have said, yeah, but they were “only” disabled people.

Because in the past society didn’t respect the disabled.  It still doesn’t really, but it was much worse before.

This is why I advocate acceptance. I will need society to one day support my kid. And I don’t want society to do this out of pity. Because pity doesn’t come with respect. The institutions of the past are how my society “helped” those they didn’t respect in the past. No.

Linda Weston is an example of someone who did not understand acceptance. Clearly. She didn’t accept people as valuable. As human. Had the judge not understood acceptance, Weston might have gotten a lesser punishment.

For those who say that acceptance is for the so-called “high functioning” in the disability community, you have no idea what you are talking about. Those who need the most support are the ones who need acceptance the most. Because without it, crimes like the one above will be common.

As I said above, acceptance means looking reality head on. Anyone who thinks that’s easy or denial has never done it.

Matt Carey

4 Responses to “Associated Press: Woman who held disabled people captive gets life in prison”

  1. Strawman November 6, 2015 at 04:25 #

    You said that so eloquently. I will print this message and when I feel that my child is one of the forgotten ones I will remember that people like you care.

  2. Shannon Rosa November 6, 2015 at 05:09 #

    Thank you, Matt. Will share, enthusiastically.

  3. wzrd1 November 8, 2015 at 09:17 #

    I’m immensely pleased that the court treated these crimes harshly. As far as I am concerned, she should never be permitted to leave the prison, even unto burying her under the prison after a long, long life in prison.
    We were living south of Philadelphia, caring for my father in his last days, when the news of the discovery of that house of horrors broke.
    We were enraged over the abuse and imprisonment of disabled persons, a condition added to by empathy for my father, who was suffering from end stage renal disease, congestive heart failure, advanced osteoarthritis and vascular dementia.
    While I feel that prison is too good for her, our laws are what keeps our civilization intact.
    At least now, she’ll experience what she inflicted upon those helpless.
    I hope that her cell toilet backs up frequently.

  4. Andrea Shettle, MSW November 16, 2015 at 23:52 #

    Reblogged this on Rambling Justice.

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