Dear people seeking justice for Dman,
You think you are doing good on the side of humanity. You believe that you’re “saving” another person with a disability from being “taken advantage” of. You take pity on him and his family. Why do you feel like Dman was abused? Violated? Since I first heard of this case, I realized this case was not as straightforward as you and the media made it appear. This case goes beyond what you claim is abuse. Beyond a man with physical disabilities. Beyond hydrocephalus and cerebral palsy.
I have disabilities. My eyes sometimes like to play intense volleyball matches against each other, preventing me from seeing objects and people as they really are at that moment–it’s called nystagmus. Additionally, like Dman, I too have hydrocephalus. My quality of life is dependent upon a shunt, a tube in the back of my head that regulates the drainage of the fluid from my brain.
People here me out. They see me. Listen to each syllable I speak. They treat me like the 23-year-old graduate student that I am. My voice is heard. This is what is missing, from the Stubblefield case. I mean after all, aren’t there supposed to be two sides in any court case? In terms of this case the voices that should be heard in the courtroom are those of Anna Stubblefield and Dman Johnson. Why then is this case different? Why is only Stubblefield’s voice heard? I know why.
Dman was silenced because of his disabilities, especially because they impact his speech. Both hydrocephalus and cerebral palsy, like many disabilities, affect each person differently. My hydrocephalus did not impact my voice in any way. My friends with cerebral palsy can speak. Dman cannot “speak,” at least not in the way that society or the courtroom see fit. He can communicate though.
Have you heard of facilitated communication (FC)? I know it’s been forbidden to be said in the courtroom. I know, it’s “controversial” but did you ever think that for Dman, it’s his way to communicate? Don’t you think his voice should be heard? If you hired an independent facilitator, who is not associated with Dman or Stubblefield, then the court could get Dman’s side of the story. You had a different agenda though. You didn’t let him speak. You wanted to keep things “simple.” You’re too afraid to “complicate” the argument. So your solution? Deem him incompetent and parade him around the courtroom like kindergarten show and tell project. To you the voice of a person with a disability was too much for you–both in the effort it would take to allow him to share his story and in the emotional toll it would take on you. Allowing Dman to have a voice would mean that he would be heard and the images you constructed of him and disability would be shattered.
You claim this case is about sexual assault and harm to a disabled person. You’re right about the harm but for the WRONG reasons. Dman was harmed but it certainly was not by Stubblefield. Instead, it was YOU who harmed him.
Dman is an adult. He was attending college. He presented at the Society for Disability Studies. He had some aspects of independence. In an instant however, his independence was taken from him.
Throughout a trial where he is the focal point, he is absent. This is all too common with people with disabilities. Especially with disabilities that impact the ability to speak. If you wanted to prevent Dman from harm, you would do whatever is necessary to let him communicate his side of the story. You would give him his voice back.
You denied him communication. You think nobody cares or will notice. The truth is the disability community and many other people noticed that you silenced Dman and as a member of the disability community, I chose to speak up.
A Disabled Person
If you’re unfamiliar with the case, here’s a blog post by fellow CUNY SPS student Emily Brooks.
Danielle Lucchese is a second year graduate student in CUNY SPS’s MA in Disability Studies program. Born and raised in Staten Island, she moved to Manhattan last year at the start of her CUNY SPS experience. When Danielle’s not hitting the books or writing papers, she enjoys exploring New York City, photography, writing poetry, playing volleyball, reading fantasy novels, listening to music and spending time with family and friends.