Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Intruder's defense reflects objectification of little people

Every day, google news sends me a report with news stories that include the word dwarf and stories that include the word midget.  For a week or two during December of 2016, the same story popped up multiple times on my daily google alerts for the word midget.  The story was of a man who broke into the apartment of a couple with a two-year old girl.  In the middle of the night, the father of the two-year-old woke up to find the intruder in the living room of his family's apartment, sitting on a couch and holding the little girl.  The father chased the man, who dropped the two-year old on the couch, out of the apartment.  He caught up to the intruder in the apartment parking lot, where they apparently tussled until police showed arrived and arrested the intruder.  In court, the intruder evidently was devastated to learn what he had done.  He explained to the court that he was drunk when he entered the apartment, believing it to be the home of his friend with whom he had been drinking. According to a story from the Washington Post, when the intruder learned the victim of his break in was a two-year old girl, "he became very upset and broke down crying. Oren (the intruder) said he would never hurt a child and does not remember the details of this incident because he was ‘black out drunk.’ ”  The Washington Post, and the many other outlets that ran the story, reported that the intruder thought the girl was "a midget."  Another story, from the Arizona Republic, says that court documents report that the intruder reported " he played with the "midget" and possibly picked her up."  

In terms of what is repulsive, unacceptable, and criminal, breaking into someone's home, then assaulting a two-year-old clearly inspires more rage than assaulting an adult aged person of short stature.  Nevertheless, I am amazed and frustrated that the intruder in this story defends his actions by claiming he thought the girl was "a midget."  Offensive language aside, the intruder believes it is culturally acceptable to physically handle a person of short stature without his or her permission, and believed that it is okay to use a person of short stature as an object of entertainment, like a toy to pick up and play with.  

Of course, the intruder's intentions may not be relevant in the context of the horror that the parents and the young toddler experienced.  But this story to me is also a reflection of behavior that some people of short stature are forced to deal with.  The actions of the intruder may seem odd, but it's not uncommon for little people, when at a bar, a party, a large sporting event, or anywhere that includes people who have too much too drink, to be forced to defend themselves against pats on the head, being picked up, or being physically handled in some way.  Unfortunately, judging by the fact the intruder used "picking up a midget" as a defense, it seems physically handling a little person is acceptable to some people. 

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