The girl in the picture is British and now a teen, I found out this weekend; her name is Heidi Crowter. Years ago, someone snatched her photo from an online parents' support group.
Most recently, web trolls posted her pic on Facebook with the caption "Lose your virginity to a retard." One site (I refuse to link to them) posted this nasty article, which I found out about through Hannah Jacobs' powerful Facebook group Special Needs Watch: Hall of Shame:
Heidi, 16, is aware of what's going on. "Heidi has told me she is very upset by the sites and she turns her head away when we have them on the computer screen," her mom has said.
I am raging as I write this. Even if I didn't have a kid with special needs, I'd find it completely impossible to understand why anyone would do this. Are these people so pathetic they can't find anything else in life to joke about? Are they so ignorant that they can't see why this is cruel? Are they heartless enough not to care? Evidently, yes, yes and yes.
For those people who've commented that there's nothing wrong with casually using the word "retard": I wonder if they'd see anything wrong with what happened to Heidi. That's the thing: Keep using the word "retard" as a joke and it perpetuates the idea that those with Down syndrome and other special needs are worthy of being made fun of. It gives the jerks of the world license to keep doing their jerk-y thing. In this video, Heidi shows a heck of a lot more smarts and soul than any of those people will ever have:
What happened to Heidi is alarming and outrageous. If anything good were to come out of it, I hope it raises awareness about how much prejudice still exists toward those with special needs—and why it's important for all of us to do what we can to encourage respect for our kids, and others like them.