Folks who have some familiarity with my blog, know that from time to time I share some stories from my friend, Larry Tummino. As a long time advocate for the liberation of people with disabilities who have been institutionalized, Larry and his colleagues have chronicled stories from folks who lived for many years at the Paul A. Dever State School, a large setting for folks with intellectual disabilities in Taunton, MA. Dever, like most of these institutions set up all over the United States to "care" for people with disabilities, was closed in 2002. In spite of their intentions, most of these institutions became brutal and unbearable settings, where the residents were treated worse than most anyone might imagine. The monograph, "We Bear Witness" was compiled by Larry and his colleagues so that we would not forget the horrors of institutionalization.
Here is a piece by Jim Ross, dedicated to his friend Peter, who lived at Dever, at perhaps its lowest point:
From horror to horror. Peter was brutalized at home as a child, chained in a room and forced to eat and sleep on the floor. When authorities discovered him, his salvation was to enter a system that included Dever in its most awful days. When asked about those days, Peter just shakes his head and repeats, like a mantra to keep away evil spirits, "You have no idea; you just have no idea!"
You'd think that Peter's life would have destroyed him, that he would have retreated inward or attacked everything and everyone around him. There are, I know, many scars on and in Peter, but he has become a gentle and accomplished man. He is a longtime and valued employee at a local company, making more money than the people hired to provide him modest supports. His co-workers are involved deeply in Peter's life. He owns his own condo, living - by choice - by himself. Peter's will has an inspirational provision: when he dies, a scholarship fund in his name will be established at the local High School. It will be used to help college-bound students with disabilities. Peter is one of my heroes.