Tuesday 25 October 2016

'What is the matter with them?' Dad of special needs boy who was forced by bullies to expose himself breaks cries over son's ordeal

Garda: File photo
Garda: File photo

A FATHER wept as he expressed outrage over how his special needs son was targeted by teen bullies who first humiliated him, then forced him to expose himself and finally posted video footage of the incident on social media.

The father appealed to parents to speak to their children about how to treat vulnerable youngsters as he said his family now faced “an emotional nightmare” on World Autism Day (April 2).

The family has asked not to be identified to protect their vulnerable son who is currently overseas with his mother.

Gardai are now investigating the circumstances of the incident in south Cork last week in which the 15 year old autistic boy was targeted by five teenagers aged from 14 to 16 years.

They first shoved twigs and dirt into the vulnerable boy’s mouth and then pulled down his trousers, forcing him to expose himself.

The incident was captured on camera phone video footage which was then posted online.

Footage was removed from social media sites within 24 hours.

The victim’s father admitted he was sickened by the incident.

READ MORE: Special needs boy forced to expose himself by gang

“I have spent the past couple of days trying not to be angry about this – trying to stay calm. But I don’t understand what these people could possibly have been thinking of? In whose world is this entertainment? What is the matter with them?”

“That is not funny, it is not entertaining. The fact that they did it to start with, the fact you want as many people as possible to see this, what is the matter with you? That’s what I want to ask them.”

He said he has a simple message for the teens involved and their families.

“How would you feel if someone did that to you? How would you feel if it was your brother or sister? Can you even begin to comprehend the effect it could have on you or your whole family?”

“What is so wrong with your children that they think this kind of thing is entertaining or funny? You need to sit down and talk with your children.”

He said he is now determined to shield his son who has been the target of bullying in the past.

“I want to try to protect him even more now,” he said.

The father only became aware of what had happened to his son when a concerned local girl called to his front door last Monday to inform him about the Internet footage.

“I was really shocked. Utter disbelief is the phrase that comes to mind. I was left reeling. But at that stage I didn’t feel I had enough to go to the gardai with. I just didn’t know what I was dealing with,” he said.

“She said they stuck stuff into his mouth and pulled his trousers and pants down. They had filmed it and put it on the Internet. We had absolutely no idea this had happened.”

“The girl knows (him). My son is friends with her younger brother. But I had never met her before.”

His son suffers from an autistic condition that limits his social interaction skills.

“Autism is not something you can explain easily in a sentence. It affects social interaction. It is not naturally easy for (autistic children) to deal with other youngsters.”

“My son’s view of the world is quite simplistic. Things that come naturally to others such as recognising facials expressions, he finds that quite hard. His social interaction is quite diminished.”

The man said his son had been bullied in the past but the scale of this incident horrified both him and his wife.

“People have called him names in the past, laughed at him. He is quite oblivious to that. But, when I was told about the incident, I was told that he was balling crying – I think he was aware that he did not like what was happening to him,” he said.

“The most obvious thing about this (is that) he got picked on because he is vulnerable. I know that. He is an easy target. With another child, they might see trouble coming – he wouldn’t and he wouldn’t have known this was coming.”

Karen O’Mahony of the Masquerade Ball support group told NewsTalk that the families of special needs children have been “sickened and horried” by the details of the south Cork bullying incident.

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