Content note: this piece discusses graphic details of caregiver abuse for the purpose of examining the scope and nature of abuse inflicted by people entrusted with the lives of disabled people who need assistance to complete tasks of daily living. Some of it may be disturbing. Be advised that linked stories contain explicit details.
Impairments can be highly variable in nature. Some allow people to live more or less completely independently, while others necessitate more interdependent relationships, and others require regular supportive care. Disabled people with with impairments that require some level of support are uniquely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, and, thanks to social attitudes, they’re devalued by the people around them — including the representatives of the very government agencies that are supposed to protect them.
The United States is experiencing an epidemic of caregiver abuse, a problem that extends to the elderly community in addition to the disabled community, and it’s a problem that’s not just limited to US shores. One of the most sinister forms this abuse takes is that of the so-called ‘people collector,’ the people who take caregiver abuse to an entirely new and horrific level. In 2011, for instance, the Tacony dungeon case attracted international headlines, but the most disturbing thing about that case may not have been the suffering endured by four captives trapped in a basement for almost a decade — rather, the true horror lay in how many cases just like it haven’t been discovered yet.