Francis and Isaiah Escayg. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.
I want you to take a look at Isaiah, really look at him. Look at his happiness, look at his innocence, look closely at his vulnerability. No matter how many times in the past I became angry at him and verbalised my frustration, no matter how many times, he has ALWAYS returned to me with love, with hugs, with kisses and smiles.
I’ve seen him experience depression, the type where he would just lay in bed and refuse to move, hardly eat, not even want to bathe, laying quietly with tears just rolling down his cheeks. I would usually wait it out, offering him as much time as he needed, laying with him, talking with him and allowing him to just lay in my arms because that is how any parent would love and nurse their child back to a place of happiness. He will be 15 this August and there are times when I am bathing him, that he blushes and pushes my hand away when I need to soap his genitals. My little boy is a human being like any other.
I am using Isaiah as the example because many of you reading this have been on this journey with us since we launched this page in 2015 and even the NGO in 2013. I am referring to him because as I delve deeper into this piece I want you to picture hundreds of “Isaiahs” across these institutions for children with Intellectual Disabilities.
No matter what we say or do, our perception of something or someone impacts our treatment of them. It is the reason why racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, ageism and ableism exists.
It is the reason why most persons running institutions that house children with intellectual disabilities and their employees, perceive themselves to be the most important persons in the equation. In other words, the children are just these dysfunctional sub human creatures that nobody wants, so like slave masters during slavery, we will do whatever we want, however we want, whenever we want because nobody cares.
For the last month or more I have been holding on to reports about a particular institution that insists on continuing to keep in its employ, staff members who allegedly abuse children, with allegations of past sexual abuse even arising. I cannot tell you that I have been sleeping well knowing what is happening.
My ire was raised even further when I learned that the staff members who raised their voices were ignored and subsequently fired and that even the Chair of the board was made aware of the abuse and yet, nothing, only silence and the daily torment for the children continues.
When you think of these children, picture Isaiah at one of these institutions, alone, vulnerable, not able to feed himself fast enough and being hit in the head because of it. Imagine him, having a meltdown, crying and hitting himself over and over because it is too hot or too noisy and someone beating him because of this. Imagine Isaiah, being fondled on his genitals by someone even when his discomfort is obvious and he tries pushing the person away, only to be raped.
The heads of these institutions cannot be receiving state funds and not be held accountable for their actions or the actions of their staff members. What is wrong can never be identified or described as right just because you perceive yourself as doing vulnerable human beings a “favour”. The key word I want people to identify when you think of any child with any disability is “HUMAN”!
Justice shouldn’t discriminate because of the biases of weak men and women. We don’t get to decide whose life is worth more or less.
What we do have power over is how we choose to respect other human beings and our moral compass must always be the guide when it comes to the care of children with Intellectual and other Disabilities.
I cannot fully explain how I arrived at a place of understanding that the life of my little boy is precious and that all children like him are precious, but I did. My reverence toward ALL of these children is a very real and deep thing. To be born into a world where you are easily abandoned, despised as a burden and considered as sub human and to still find the ability to give love, even when you cannot verbalise it, means you are the embodiment of unconditional love.
I consider all of these children to be my own and I would go to war if I had to, to protect them, I really would.
This is going to be the second time I have cause to reach out to this institution and I pray that they will be amenable to working together to find solutions to the issues and to resolving what can be described as darkness so that all of the “Isaiahs” housed there can be allowed to spend their days and nights in peace and not fear.