Autism groups have slammed the media for its reporting of the tragic murder-suicide in Sydney‘s North Shore.
Details are still emerging, but police confirmed on Wednesday that Fernando Manrique, 44, Maria Claudia Lutz, 43, and their two children Elisa, 11, and Martin, 10, likely died as a result of air-borne gas rigged up in an “extensive, elaborate and well-planned operation.”
Much has been made of the two children living with non-verbal autism, and several news outlets (including this one) have run quotes from acquaintances of the family about this, in both a positive and negative light.
However, disability groups and activists are not impressed by speculation, slamming coverage that has attempted to explain this tragedy a result of suffering parents.
“We are also horrified at the reframing of family violence as an act by parents who were suffering,” said Briannon Lee, Co-Convenor of Autistic Family Collective. “A reframing which paints the children as the cause of their own death and the murderer as a suffering hero.”
“Autistic people (and our disabled colleagues) stand united in the belief that we are not a burden or a tragedy and that we do not cause suffering.”
ASAN AU/NZ chair Katherine Annear said that “these deaths are not understandable, acceptable or justifiable in the face of autism; they are criminal in the face of humanity” and that “two children are dead, there should be outrage.”
And disability advocate Samantha Connor slammed the media for speculating about motives for this crime.
“Speculation about motives including a perceived lack of support or the concept of ‘burden’ devalues the lives of the children who are the innocent victims of this tragedy,” she said.
“There is no evidence that the identity of the children played any part in this crime. This disturbing community and media response, which includes the publication of articles which tacitly endorse family violence, is both stigmatising and victim blaming.”
Police are still working to determine what happened, but have noted that with the family’s relatives overseas in Colombia and no survivors, it may be some time before answers come to light.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or family violence, call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732. You can also find a number of national resources available at the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria.