Sunday, April 5, 2015

Justice for Adam Crapser And The Larger Problem Of Unattended Violence Against (Re-Homed) Adoptees

Adam Crapser as a child (photo via Gazillion Strong)

While Adam Crapser's story is making headlines due to his pending deportation, what stood out for me while listening to Kevin Vollmers’ interview with Crapser was how brave and well-spoken he is as a survivor of multiple forms of violence. 

Adam was adopted in 1979, but have things improved? Has there been less violence against adoptees? It's hard to say, but we do know that the re-homing of adoptees is not uncommon and that some adoptees continue to live in unsafe and abusive homes; we’ve seen it with Hana Williams, the Barbour's, the Hehn’s and Arkansas State Representative Justin Harris, yet there are countless of other cases that have never made mainstream news. Perhaps because these adoptees are still dependent minors, feel disempowered or are just too busy fighting for their own survival, whether they are living on the streets, locked up, involved in criminal activities or better yet, are successful university students or high-powered professionals. 

Besides experiencing adoption trauma, how do adoptees know they are worthy of love, of protection, of safety and well-being if it was never shown to them? Or what if they were but it was contingent on them fulfilling their abusers desires? This is what some adoptees have had to endure. It's easy to judge Crapser for having made “bad” choices. It's true that he is responsible for his actions, but we also don't exist in a vaccuum. We are deeply affected by our lived experiences, this is why abused people tend to be abusive, so the cycle of violence continues. Adoptees need support and solidarity, not more judgement.

While we blame individuals for their actions, we rarely hold larger societal institutions accountable for contributing and maintaining various forms of violence against individuals and communities. In the case of adoptees, who should be held accountable for violence committted against them? Besides the perpetrators, I think adoption agencies should be held accountable because they are the ones responsible for coordinating adoptions and screening prospective adoptive parents. Adoptees have told me personally that sometimes agency personnel were aware of abuse, but decided to turn a blind eye, usually because the adoptive parent in question was in a position of power or because they were afraid of how it may affect their adoption agency’s reputation. To this day, post-adoption support and follow-up visits are extremely scarce or non-existent. I find this incredibly shocking and it demonstrates that the well-being of adopted children is not a priority. If it was, this support would be readily available. As a result, FAR fewer adoptees would be struggling. 

While  Land of Gazillion Voices is one of the leading advocates for adoptee issues in the U.S., there needs to be more organizations dedicated to supporting re-homed adoptees and adoptees who have had to flee their homes due to violence, particularly in countries with large international adoptee populations like Canada, France, Italy and Spain.

And perhaps more urgently, we need to stop pretending abuse doesn’t happen in our homes and in our adoption communities. Abuse and violence is regularly and consistently perpetrated by (and against) those closest to us such as our parents, aunts, uncles, cousins or partners---not by strangers. I wish that we would stop making excuses to protect those we know abuse and harm others, whether it is emotionally, physically or sexually. We need to confront this behavior as well as listen and support adoptees. We have a part to play in their healing process because what affects them also affects us as a community.

I applaud Adam’s candidness and the fact that he has not only survived such awful circumstances, but is committed to improving his life, against all odds. He is inspiring and his story attests to the resiliency of the human spirit. I sincerely hope those involved in making decisions about his deportation will consider his lived experience because it matters. My other hope is that Crapser's case leads to more critical discussion and concrete action in terms of immigration reform as well as other pressing adoptee isssues such as re-homing, violence and support for adoptees.

Annette-Kassaye (@KassayeBM) is a transracial adoptee from Ethiopia living in Montréal, Québec (Canada). She has written for Gazillion Voices and co-founded Ethiopian Adoptees of the Diaspora. While an undergraduate student at Concordia University, she volunteered at the Center for Gender Advocacy, which was instrumental in establishing a sexual assault resource center on campus for survivors of sexual violence and harrassment.