Let me begin by saying I’m not the biggest fan of the Daily Mail. I regard it about as credible as a source of hard news as the bogus diet drop adverts which over populate Facebook.
When I saw the words “you fucking spastic” my eyes went out on stalks and I was very shocked. Had I not carried on reading this article could have taken a very different path; addressing how horrible the word spastic was and how it was irresponsible of us in journalism to publicise it. I am glad they did, for they showed her up for what she was; a cruel abuser
But then I carried on to read that Samantha Kidd had been jailed for five months yesterday for assaulting her paralysed husband, the former motorbike stunt rider Eddie Kidd. She assaulted him on four separate occasions during one of which he was left shaking and hysterical.
There are clearly three main issues at play here; the issue of words and the language we use, the issue of actions and responsibility, plus the issue of the law and leniency.
Firstly the word spastic is an emotive one for me, not least because medically speaking I am one. I have quadriplegic cerebral palsy and like Eddie Kidd require full-time personal care.
One of my mother’s earliest memories was bringing me home from hospital as a premature baby and receiving a letter from The Spastics Society (now Scope).
In the letter it told my mother about how life with a child with cerebral palsy would be. But the term spastic is so limiting and really no more than a mere medical descriptor.
More often than not it is taken out of its appropriate context and used in the vernacular sense to signify stupidity or as in the case of Eddie Kidd a term to bully or abuse.
Some including disabled friends of mine has sought to reclaim the term in a similar way to ethnic minority groups reclaiming pejorative terms around colour or race. Whilst I support friends’ efforts to reclaim it if they wish, for me the term belongs in the dustbin of history. It does not look at the whole person and denies them basic humanity.
It is relevant to the case of Eddie and Samantha Kidd because Eddie defined himself as a spastic. But again we come back to context. Self defining and ribbing each other with the word spastic is rather different to somebody screaming it in your face while striking several blows to your body four times.
If physical blows can give you bruises and injure you, then mental bruises can be etched upon you by words. There is no doubt in my mind that through her choice of words, Samantha Kidd was aiming to cause maximum anguish and distress to Eddie Kidd.
After all he can’t help his situation. He was paralysed by chance in an accident and did not ask to be disabled. Nor did he expect the endless abuse meted out to them by Samantha Kidd. People with disabilities are vulnerable and deserve our support and help. Were I faced with a similar situation I know I couldn’t fight back . That scares me.
Words are pernicious and they have the power to heal and to hurt. Eddie should have never had to suffer and endure violence from someone loved considering that he was never in a position to respond but instead left scared and hysterical. The issue here also is power. Samantha Kidd had power over her husband due to the dependent nature of his disability. She abused her power and violated Eddie’s trust.
Then I am bitterly reminded of the sentence of five months for committing these vile acts of violence. Is five months enough? I don’t think so by any long chalk. Her defence counsel made all sorts of cogent remarks around her use of alcohol as a coping strategy, and around her emotional distress.
If the gender roles had been reversed there would have been no talk of alcohol as a coping strategy. If Samantha Kidd was a man there would have been instead discussion of a drink problem not a coping strategy and her angry outbursts directed at Eddie Kidd would have been the result of violent behaviour not emotional stress. I am against abuse completely. An abuser is an abuser, irrespective of sex. Nor does her being a woman make her actions more acceptable.
The sentence is too lenient, and the problem is the law. I don’t blame the judiciary, I blame our archaic laws which are not fit for purpose in the 21st century. Were I a lawmaker and if I had the power to change the law I would make sure she served years in prison not a paltry five months.
Five months for the damage to a person’s life and mental state when they have already been irrevocably damaged by disability.
The impact of Samantha Kidd’s actions will live with Eddie for years. Reportedly he sent text messages to Samantha Kidd asking to meet up which according to reports she has resisted. Well how very noble!
What a pity she wasn’t able to resist beating her husband and screaming at him on four occasions. One occasion was enough. As a paralysed man Eddie Kidd didn’t stand a chance against a screaming power hungry abuser. He has already suffered the indignity of paralysis when he was once a champion in his field. I know what that feeling of vulnerability is like.
You always feel it no matter how much you trust people. I understand that caring for a person with disabilities is stressful but being cared for brings its own worries. Putting your trust in somebody to look after you when you can do virtually nothing for yourself is a big thing to have to do. You don’t expect that trust to be broken, especially in a marital setting. I can imagine Kidd sitting there crying his world crushed further still thinking why me and being powerless to act.
Samantha Kidd had the power to stop her actions.. She is a victim too. I don’t deny that but Eddie Kidd was suffering already. To make him suffer yet more, was a travesty of words and actions, and I’m not giving a ringing endorsement of our legal system.