Our two national organizations, National Down Syndrome Society and National Down Syndrome Congress, are dedicated to serving and advocating for individuals with Down syndrome.
We are outraged by Judge Christopher McFadden’s recent overturned ruling of a jury’s guilty verdicts against William Jeffrey Dumas. Dumas was convicted of repeatedly raping a young woman with Down syndrome on Oct. 18, 2010.
According to his ruling, Judge Christopher McFadden claims that a new trial is necessary because the victim (who happens to have Down syndrome) waited a day before reporting the rape, and because she did not behave like a rape victim.
We’d like to ask the question, “How should a rape victim act – disability or non-disability?”
This ruling reflects an astonishing and dehumanizing view of an individual with a disability – in this case the young woman with Down syndrome. We condemn the judge’s actions.
Every person has a different way of coping with traumatic situations, and, this includes people with Down syndrome. We would like to know, how she was “supposed” to act after being repeatedly raped? Has some sort of standard been set for this or is this entirely judgmental?
The trial testimony established evidence that Dumas’ semen was found on the bed on which the woman slept the night of the attack.
Additionally, the doctor who examined the woman had made findings that were consistent with a woman who had been forcibly raped. Does someone’s behavior trump hard evidence in court?
A judge’s personal, ignorant, and ill-informed beliefs should not be part of deciding a case.
We envision a world in which all people with Down syndrome have the opportunity to enhance their quality of life, realize their life aspirations and become valued members of welcoming communities.
People with disabilities, like all people, deserve to be treated as valued citizens and not referred to in a hurtful manner for any purpose.
More often than not, people with Down syndrome are underestimated their whole lives by people who focus on their disability, rather than their abilities, and who perpetuate outdated stereotypes.
Today, people with Down syndrome work, live independently, get married, and contribute to society in all different ways.
We are pleased that Judge McFadden has stepped away from this case, however, our organizations demand that the state of Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission begin proceedings to remove him from office.
We support a change.org petition calling for McFadden’s removal. We hope that the governor moves swiftly to appoint a new judge and that justice is done with the conviction being reinstated.
Sara Hart Weir
Vice President of Advocacy & Affiliate Relations for the National Down Syndrome Society
Director of Government Affairs for the National Down Syndrome Congress