It’s been a grueling couple of weeks with two court cases to prepare for regarding issues that stemmed from being an advocate. When I first began being public with advocacy I never knew how political or nasty some of the situations could get. From my perspective and those I work closely with or those who know me and my son, it all seems so common sense. Well, that’s not the case and it leads to so much frustration, misunderstanding and worse – harassment and libel.
I represented myself in court as the petitioner, the respondent hired a lawyer and of course that did put me at a disadvantage but I believed that the truth would prevail and if the Judge read the law correctly, it would be clear that I had been the victim of harassment. In actuality, I am also the victim of libel and slander and the judge did mention several times that I should hire a lawyer and file a case for libel/slander. At this point I am not going to follow the judges recommendations since I was granted the anti-harassment protection order and if the respondent is not able to adhere to this order there will be criminal charges filed. My hope is that the respondent will stop the behavior that caused this situation and move on.
What is really strange is that we really do agree on many things but this person would never know that because from the very first interaction with me they had false and preconceived impression of who I am and what I believe in. The fact that the only in-person conversation I had with this person, they started out by saying “you’re abusive” and quickly escalated to them swearing at me and storming away. (At that time the person was a Co-Chair of a City of Seattle Commission and a public representative for Seattle)
As with every experience that I have, I learn a lot, I make mistakes and I learn from those mistakes too.
There were a couple of funny things –
I provided a letter that the respondent had written to my employer (I work as a RN and the respondent has never been a patient of mine nor do I have any interaction with them in the healthcare arena). The letter was filled with fabrications twisting shreds of truth into fantasy events and outright libel. The respondent’s lawyer agreed to submission of the letter and stated “and we not only submit it but we ENDORSE it”
Later, the lawyer referred to that very same document as “hearsay” The judge did call her out on that saying “the respondent wrote this letter – you endorsed it, it’s not hearsay”
The Judge sent the respondent’s lawyer and me into a meeting room in hopes of coming to an agreement so that the protection order would not have to be filed. The lawyer was clearly irritated with me from the very beginning with an attitude of superiority and smugness – I did not agree to the offer they put before me and in trying to explain why to the lawyer, she threw her hands up and stormed out of the room and said “well I’ll just tell the judge you can’t agree to anything” OKAY –
Back to the courtroom – as it turns out their offer was for me to basically stop advocating for my son and others, have no contact with The Arc of King County or attend any of their events (this is where the respondent works) – Of course I would refuse – this would make it virtually impossible to continue to advocate for those I work with. I’m already banished from the Parent to Parent support groups moderated by The Arc of King County due to issues caused by me calling out behaviors of the respondent. The judge did agree and stated that he would never sign an agreement that would take away the right of free speech.
So with that – we went to a real hearing and I prevailed and left the court with my anti-harassment protection order signed and in place. Perseverance can pay off but I’m ready to be done with this and move on to much more positive work in family advocacy. We have a long way to go.
A couple more sidebars to this case:
- The Respondent provided declarations from at least 4 people they have worked with in regards to advocacy. None of these declarations dealt with the issue before the judge but all expressed what a terrific person the respondent was and how devoted they are to the cause (This was never a contested issue – in fact, I agreed with much of what the people who wrote declarations wrote.) The fact remains though that just because a person works hard and gets along with those who totally agree or cater to them, does not mean that the person does not harass others – that is what the case was about so these declarations were totally useless with regards to the facts of the case before the judge.
- When the judge stated that he was going to sign the order, the respondent’s lawyer stood up and requested that the judge sign an order of protection for the respondent also. The judge said “No, it doesn’t work that way” The respondent filed a petition last year, it was denied, this order is due to the escalation of harassment the respondent has caused since their order was denied”
- One of the declarations was written by a person I have never met (Brian Dahl) I know the name and apparently he was at some Self Advocates In Leadership meeting that I took my son to. This is what he wrote about my “behavior” at the meeting:
“She, with her son, attended a monthly meeting of this group about a year ago. I was also in attendance. Her presence was slightly disrupting but not enough to stop the meeting. She did nothing to engage in a productive dialogue when she was there and she left early”
Interesting viewpoint of my actions there – what this person does not know is that I was working extremely hard to keep my son from being extremely disrupting to the meeting. I was not there for me to participate but for my son to try to participate. We left early because my son was getting more and more agitated and I was trying to avoid a fiasco from happening. I really wish we could have stayed because after we left there was an issue that my son does have an opinion on and he was not able to stay to address that issue.
I find it extremely telling of this response from Brian Dahl that there is so little understanding of working with those who need extensive supports – both physically and behaviorally to participate in community events. Mr. Dahl, if you have suggestions on how to include those with disruptive behavior, please contact me and let me know your thoughts. Right now I see your comment only reinforcing what I and many others have experienced – that many in the self-advocacy and advocacy movement have very little understanding or awareness of what those with extremely high support needs choices and desires are because they are excluded from venues that address issues that directly affect their lives.
When they are excluded how do you reconcile the saying “Nothing about us without us?”