Judge Rotenberg Center Abroad
The handwriting is on the wall, though. The coalition of civil rights groups lobbying against JRC's abuses is growing stronger, and every time the Massachusetts Legislature votes on a bill to ban behavioral aversives (that is, the deliberate infliction of pain for behavior-management purposes), the vote gets narrower. One day soon, the legislation will surely pass, and that will be the end of the Shock Doc's lucrative marketing of sadistic child abuse for profit—at least in Massachusetts.
He can't simply pack up and move JRC to another state that has not yet banned aversives, either. Disability rights and anti-abuse groups such as APRAIS are active in all parts of the United States, and given JRC's horrific reputation, any attempt to apply for licensure in another state would surely meet with so much opposition that it would be a political impossibility.
So what options are there for America's most infamous behaviorist? Well, the obvious answer is that he will seek to move JRC abroad, to a country where its reputation has not preceded it. And there are indications that this is exactly what may be happening.
In mid-July, the Shock Doc gave a lecture about JRC to a group of Israeli behaviorists who invited him to speak at the Zisman College. Although this was purportedly an unplanned event that took place during a private visit, I have my suspicions that it was intended as a "trial balloon" to determine how well the relocation of JRC to Israel would be received.
The self-advocate organization Autistic Community of Israel (ACI) promptly took action by sending letters and information about JRC to those involved with the lecture. ACI succeeded in getting an advertisement removed from a website, but several behaviorists failed to respond to ACI's letters. As a consequence, ACI informed Michael Ben-Zvi, the secretary of the behaviorists' association that arranged for the lecture, that he was no longer welcome to speak at a symposium presented by ACI.
This incident demonstrates the need for the international autistic community to work together in solidarity to combat abusive behaviorist programs and other threats. We need to make it clear that there will be no safe havens anywhere on the planet for those who profit from the mistreatment of autistic children and adults.
Ari Ne'eman, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), is currently in Israel and met with representatives of ACI on Friday to discuss this situation and to offer assistance. ACI has indicated that correspondence from ASAN to Israeli organizations would help to focus attention on the global nature of the autistic community's concerns.
Since its expansion into Australia earlier this year, ASAN has had a consistent track record of being aware and involved in matters of concern to the worldwide autistic community. It's good to see this level of international understanding and commitment.