Last week when Britney Spears bravely gave evidence in her own conservatorship case, the world was rightly horrified to hear how her abusive father and team have controlled her life for the past 13 years. However, the case has drawn light to how similar practices are used to overpower disabled across the globe, as H.J discusses.
What’s interesting in this case is that Britney has always had eyes on her. She has an undeniably global presence; yet her abuses were left to still spiral into this level of magnitude. For those of us in the shadows, a lack of money and otherwise high costs are often factors in our access to safety and ‘justice’; or lack thereof. But, beloved Britney has amassed many millions and yet has endured horrific things and has struggled just as much as us. None of her “luck” or fortunes protected her from this, at any point.
Conservatorships hold many names across the globe. Others include “legal guardianship”, “Property of the State/Long-term Care” or “Power of Attorney” and they are all put in place under the guise of “loving concern”.
While I understand that there is no perfect solution and that Conservatorships may be an unavoidable option under certain conditions, placing a conservatorship has become and remained the defaulted and unchallenged ‘remedy’ for far too long. There is, again, clearly a need to appreciate the individual variables and to update our horrendous practices, in order to reach a more humane and dignified outcome that brings us closer to the intended level of “safety and love” that our teams and families claim to be acting from.
I know that there are also some families who are not malicious, but, the fact that Conservatorship prospects are almost never screened and remain largely unregulated has led to an undeniable and concerning hypocrisy which holds tragic and disastrous results.
“…because I don’t think I was heard on any level when I came to court the last time…and by contract, their own management could sue me…I couldn’t even get my own attorney so out of fear, I went ahead…Not only did my family, not do a goddamn thing my dad was all for it, anything that happened to me had to be approved by my dad…And actually, I have a right to use my voice and take after myself ”
What is additionally disheartening is that further legal sources are currently claiming that her own voice and the clear depths of her pain still will not likely be enough.
Britney’s statement and struggle unearths a pain in me that I may never be able to explain; both as someone in a wheelchair needing care while handling multiple disabilities but particularly so as a confinement survivor who’s caregiver-turned-abuser was also my biological father.
Much like Britney, I was consistently left unheard in the courts, denied my rights and appeals, and not told about the full scope of my expected role until much later. Similarly, no lawyer would touch my prosecution case because I had a need for care, was no longer a child and because the matter was also non-spousal.
Like Britney and many others, I have fought for years to keep my true voice uncensored and have had my accomplishments and autonomy viciously dismissed both amid these systems and from within my family, due to my health conditions being continually painted as worse than they are or have ever been. My father’s outward persona was filtered as “loving” and his overzealous involvement instantly became noted as a ‘natural consequence’ to having disabilities; even as my medical records, accolades, merits and functional capacity continued to demonstrate that his level of intensity wasn’t necessary.
I, too, can vividly recall the way my father filtered every aspect of my life — food, shampoo, clothing, outings, conversations, IUDs and other forms of medical care — without objection or pause from others, despite my clear distress. I was severely malnourished and socially delayed because of his ‘care’, by the time it was over. He dismissed the type of care that I truly needed in favor of his own views.
As such, he exploited my disability; not to my benefit, but for his own image and personal gain. Ultimately, it is this same frequency of exploitation that others in our community can, unfortunately, relate to; one which has been excused for far too long.
Today, as the world is rocked by the news that Britney’s plea has been denied, it’s clear there is more work to be done. Not just for her, but for the autonomy of all disabled people.
If we truly want to support the betterment and vitality of our loved ones, if we want to honour Britney and uplift the many other survivors still in need across this world, then we need to think deeper and to listen more closely. A survivor is more than one moment, a human is more than one meltdown and every patient is more than one test result. The unnerving truth is that abuses like these are rarely spotted, nor survived, and absolutely deserve an honest voice. Our voices matter and should have always mattered most.
As I wrote in my own impact statement © from 2018:
“A caregiver’s job is to assist; not dominate. A father [parent/family’s] job is to help their child grow — my father has done the latter and taken measures to cut me down…None of us can get these lost years back, and I believe this fact makes the future all the more worthy of protection”.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a similar crisis, do know that your life matters and we are fighting for you. While these abuses are far from being globally recognized and can often be condition-specific, myself and a few other organizations do exist to help you and to push for expansive change.
Please reach out to the resources, below:
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