Friday, March 28, 2008

Somebody's got to say it...

This is based on another local news story.

A mentally-retarded woman was just sentenced to 80 years in prison for killing her boyfriend's 3-year-old son. (Story.) I'm not going to go into the details, as they are pretty horrific and not precisely germane to what I'm going to say.

Before I get into my rant, I want to make it very clear: I'm not feeling any sympathy for this woman, nor do I think there's any mitigating what she did. It was heinous, disgusting (even for child murder), and I only wish it was possible to give her the death penalty. But nowhere have I seen addressed a secondary but still important issue. Not in the newspaper (even letters-to-the-editor), nor on WOAI's "local" show. Here's the deal, the very first thing I said to my mother after reading the first article:

What the hell is wrong with a man that he wants a mentally retarded woman as a partner?

For all that she was apparently high functioning (she held a job), she was still not quite right, to be politically incorrect about it. Her mother warned her boyfriend against her, telling him that she wasn't really mature enough emotionally for such a relationship, and definitely shouldn't be taking care of the man's child.

We have laws to protect those deemed unable to give informed consent. That's why a 25-year-old can't legally screw a 15-year-old, even though from a biological standpoint such a liasion makes perfect sense. Our society frowns upon, say, a university professor having an affair with one of his students, because it is considered that his influence over her (hers over him) is such that actual consent is questionable.

I think that most reasoning men probably will agree with me, that a woman with the mental and emotional capacity of a child should be essentially regarded as one, sexual maturity aside.

But there's always someone willing to take advantage.

This hits home for me, as one of my cousins is married to a woman with diminished mental capacity. (She's the only grownup I've ever met who still has a legal guardian.) I have always questioned this particular person's motivations, to be honest. It's not a balanced relationship; it cannot be. As I know the woman, I know that she is very high functioning, and chances are if you didn't know her well you wouldn't realize to begin with that she's not "normal". Heck, I've got another cousin (I've got one for every season) who, though there's nothing on paper, is fairly obviously slightly retarded, and yet there's never been a shortage of men ready to take advantage of her. (She's been sexually abused as an adult, something which may be a little hard to comprehend.)

I don't get it. I just don't. I understand that there is love and that love is irrational, but in many of these relationships it seems to me that it is, like with pedophilia or rape, much less about love than about power. Because a dumb woman (and I don't mean that in a mean way, really, just a factual one) is easier to control.

We rightly worry about men who feel a need to control their wives when said wives have full mental capacity. Seems to me we need to be asking questions when they do it because the woman actually has to be led in order to do anything.


Jamie said...

My cousin, who is now probably 28 or 29, I can never keep track, is mildly mentally retarded as well and in a relationship with a "normal" person. His girlfriend has a very IQ, but manages, in her words, to prefer a relationship with my simple, uncomplicated cousin. I can't tell you why, but they actually seem happy. They hold down jobs, have their own place. My uncle continues to manage my cousins social security (because he's concerned about impropriety), but overall they seem happy.

Would I trust my cousin with my kids in particular my baby? I'm not sure. The oldest, yes, because she has the common sense regarding what she needs that he might not have, but I can totally see him missing the bus on the using the car seat or something similar.

transfattyacid said...

The news piece does not say anything about the boyfriend (so we can only assume that he is 'normal') - nor does it particularly describe her mental state beyond saying that she had 'mild mental retardation'.

I understand where you are coming from in your argument about the imbalance of power in a relationship, but a balance has to be struck somewhere - unless the suggestion is that the mentally retarded be sterilised or euthanised as they were in the early part of the 20th century - or perhaps worse institutionalised in assylums where they were still sexually active and in some cases the offspring of those relationships were brought up in the assylum too, and then committed when they reached the age of majority.

It is a terrible thing that this woman has done to that child.

But is it any worse than a driver who kills a child? And what punishment does the driver get? Usually not much, unless they have been drinking.

Actually I can think of an almost exactly similar incident and no one has ever been prosecuted. That is the death of Rhianna Hardie

The only real difference is that she was killed by corporate neglect and this child's death was down to one person; and that person happened to have mental health issues.

Strings said...

I'm gonna have to disagree with you here, to a point.

Boy goes to bar. Boy meets girl, who seems fairly "normal". Things happen, and feelings develop. Boy then discovers that girl has diminished mental capacity.

Do his feelings suddenly end?

Obviously, you can reverse the genders on this one...

Sabra said...

But this isn't "boy meets normal-seeming girl." This is "Boy meets girl. Boy's mother warns boy about girl because she's retarded, & further warns boy not to let girl babysit his child." This is a woman who was *known* to be of quite diminished mental capacity, and a man who saw nothing wrong with being taken advantage of.

And while I am certainly not advocating euthanizing the mentally retarded (curious how you could reach that conclusion from what I wrote), I am certainly advocating actually protecting a class of citizens incapable of giving informed consent. It's why we have statutory rape laws, and why most major organizations, from universities to the military, have anti-fraternization policies.