ABBY R.

written by

Christopher Hayden

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ABBY R.
written by

Christopher Hayden

STATUE OF GEN. WILLIAM WELLS Battery Park. Burlington, VT Here in Burlington, Vermont we have a local and state government which is comprised of both public and quasi-private agencies. Employees of one are often found wearing the hat of another as they seamlessly skip back and forth between, for instance, Howard Center (a “non-profit” mental health and substance abuse ‘service’ provider) and the State Department of Corrections or, alternatively, the City Housing Authority. They proudly and shamelessly speak of ‘operating behind the scenes.’ (See the facebook wall of one Justin Verette, who lists his employment as Howard Center AND the Burlington Police. Need to run an end game around someone's free speech rights? If the offending language doesn't meet the criteria for a crime, call Justin. On cue, he'll be glad to say it proves the speaker/writer is crazy. Got your handcuffs ready?) While there can be no doubt that plenty of bullying and
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mercenary buffoonery goes on in rampant quantities as the local apparatchiks tax and regulate and fine business after business into fleeing Vermont, the major abuses of power that I am personally aware of here involve the refusal of local and state law enforcement and, for instance, our state Adult Protective Services, to actually use their power as their charter(s) intend. They get their funding and they do NOTHING. Barbara Prine, an attorney with Vermont Legal Aid, held a press conference in December 2011 to announce that her agency was suing Adult Protective Services due to their total failure to investigate and act on hundreds of cases (going back years) of reported abuse of both the elderly and otherwise vulnerable adults. The niece who steals her great aunt’s pain medicine. The adult son who appropriates his elderly father’s SSDI check and foodstamps, leaving the old man to starve in the dark. The personal care assistant who allows his charge to lie in feces and rot. The problem is rampant and continues to grow. To its credit, our state legislature recently passed a bill that would make it easier for law enforcement to act to protect, specifically, the helpless elderly from exploitation. I am sorry to report that Governor Peter Shumlin (D) vetoed it. His staffers inherited this problem and, once elected, immediately set themselves to the irresponsible path of perpetuating it. Let me give you an example of how they work it here-

CHURCH ST MARKETPLACE Burlington, VT

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In Burlington we have quite an eclectic assembly of eccentric persons. Among the mentally ill and chronically homeless one can be surprised by the charm, the character, the insight and the perspectives that these disadvantaged folks bear within their thread-worn exteriors. One such person is a woman named Abigail R., or Abby as she is known around town. Abby is profoundly emotionally disturbed and otherwise mentally ill. She is probably mentally retarded as well, though it can be hard to tell or to be sure in many cases. A Howard Center client, Abby once lived in a one bedroom apartment on the top of floor a building located on Church St. (home to our world famous and iconic marketplace.) In attending twelve steps meetings and frequenting the recovery drop-in center, Abby attracted the attention of a chronically homeless alcoholic named Randy L., who started out as a long term “house guest” in her one bedroom apartment. Over time Randy ingratiated himself to the landlord of the building and to the treatment team at Howard that is responsible for seeing to her welfare as she struggles to live outside of institutions.

Howard is the only-show-in-town of its type and the gross, systemic inefficiency and negligence reflect this. They sell a lot of prescriptions for Big Pharm to medicaid/medicare recipients but beyond that their quality of service is largely equivalent to your own local DMV, which faces no competition and thus fears no loss of funding or revenue no matter how horrible their customer’s experience might prove to be. Howard Center is literally a subversive arm of local law enforcement. The courts defer to these ‘specialists’ as if they were really the professional elites with special knowledge that they pretend to be, and as if they actually do all the things for their clients that the courts at least publicly pretend to take for granted. But I can tell you personally, as a member of a class of people who are truly dependent to some degree or other on assistance of one type or another, this mental health services
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agency, ostensibly here to help us, is peopled by paper shuffling, phonetag playing Mandarins, the vast bulk of whom would never make it in the private sector where factors such as quality of service and competition would require real work of real efficiency and value. These over-educated, under performing and way over paid bureaucrats, who invariably “came to do good but stayed to do well” have no personal interest in seeing anyone receiving services from them, for instance, recover and migrate back into the work force. Quite the opposite is true. This bloated and overfed ‘non-profit’ agency has literally more employees than it has clients. A stroll through any of their many parking lots of their many office complexes will reveal a beautiful collection of their privately owned Mercedes Benz, BMWs, Lincoln Navigators et al. while a review of their client roster will reveal that a steady percentage are being heavily medicated at high cost to medicaid/medicare while concurrently living in the weeds and woods at the edge of our lakefront. Among the many big problems with their conniving culture of operation, their caseworkers are notoriously lazy. So when it was suggested that Randy could take up some of the slack by being officially added to Abby’s Burlington Housing Authority voucher as a support worker they leaped at the chance to pass the buck, despite Randy’s criminal history, his lack of employment and his violent alcoholism. So Abby and Randy were moved three floors down to the ground floor in a two bedroom apartment where Randy lived rent free in exchange for helping her keep house and manage her affairs.

RANDY L.
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For the next few years Randy controlled Abby’s apartment and her money. The place was a bacteria riddled catastrophe of dirty dishes, dirty clothes, cigarette butts and rubbish. Howard never said a cross word to Randy or about him. There were mulitple events wherein Randy would get drunk, even though both Abby and Randy were ostensibly in recovery, and Abby would ask a neighbor named Derek S. or Sonny L. to eject Randy from the house as he was very abusive and known to hit and harangue her, even in public. At one point another neighbor took Abby and another mentally disabled woman into one of the bedrooms in Abby’s apartment and sexually assualted the pair of them while Randy sat in the living room watching television. Abby reported this attack to the police, who then took no action whatsoever as Randy assured them nothing had happened. Randy was compensated in marijuana and beer money by the rapist for this obstruction of justice. I know this for a fact as he bragged while drunk to me personally about this and a whole host of criminally abusive activities that he perpetrated in the time as her caregiver. Abby bought a little cockerspaniel dog named ‘Buford’ as this was supposed to be therapeutic for her. Randy would kick and beat and torture that poor little dog like you just would not believe unless you saw it happen.

SONNY L. In time, the dog got re-located and Abby began to refuse to go home out of fear of Randy’s alcohol-fueled domestic abuse. After months of this
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scenario, with a stuperous Abby wandering the streets at night, sometimes fresh from ECT ‘treatments’ and often with black eyes and other bruises from the hands of her official care-giver, Howard Center finally found Abby a tiny little one room efficiency. She moved to it and Randy was left in the Church St apartment, which he remained in until forcibly evicted by the courts, never having paid a dime of rent. Flash forward a few more months and what do you know? Randy, homeless like always, was back under Abby’s roof at her little one room studio, drinking and hitting her, blacking her eyes and controlling her money. Throughout this disgraceful epic, going back to the early days of their association, countless individuals attempted to bring these heartbreaking situations to the attention of the Burlington Police and Howard staff and APS. To this day Randy has never been charged with anything. In the state of Vermont, a single instance of a woman being abused by a man in her home is usually enough to bring out the full force of the law and the government and the police and the courts. In this case it did not matter a farthing what he did to her or her little dog or her money or her property or her humanity, who saw it, who knew about it, who reported it or to whom it was reported. I was personally threatened with arrest by the Burlington Police Department for the simple, moral act of reporting that Randy was back in Abby’s life after she had finally moved away from him. (Being poor, mentally ill, mentally retarded, aged or otherwise weak and vulnerable mysteriously yet effectively negates your civil and even your basic human rights in Bernie Sander’s “socialist crucible of Progressive change.” Beyond being a Social Security number for billing purposes, you are just nothing. Nobody. Not even a human being. In the Halls of Academia they have a word for it - SOCIALISM. Thanks Bernie.... - CHRISTOPHER HAYDEN Modus Arts Group 2012

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BUFORD Watch Abby's Little Dog Howl for Justice http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Apid3A6tzr8 AFTERWORD : I have known Randy L. since 1994. We met that summer when we were both homeless and staying at the C.O.T.S. Daystation. He was one of many new friends I made that year. You see, I hail from an old Green Mountains family. Hayden Hill in Hinesburg is the site of the old family farm. My grandfather Andrew Hayden grew up there. His father Frank Hayden did too. But I was born and raised in southern Maine. My parents were divorced when I was ten and after that my father lived here in Chittenden County. I came here every year for summer and ski vacations. So when I first came to Vermont to live as an adult I was in my mid-20's and had just been run out of Portland, Maine - the city of my birth - for writing and self-publishing two controversial short story collections titled, respectively, PSYCHOBABBLE and HELTERSKELETONTREE and also a short novel, set at Harvard University, titled GUARDIAN'S FLIGHT. People in Maine lost their shit when they read my stuff and I had to choose between fist-fighting solo against a mob every day or leaving. So I came here to Burlington.
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Randy was a bit of a weird guy but he was smart and fun to drink with. When he was younger and in the Vermont foster care system he had lit himself on fire and badly burned his legs. He always wore sweat pants under his bluejeans to protect what was left of the skin on his calves. A common acquaintance of ours used to rag him and call him 'Torch.' I always called him 'Crandle' or 'Crandy.' It just sounded funny. Over the years our paths would cross and we'd hang out and shoplift beer and drink and try to meet girls. I dropped LSD with him at least twice. Sometimes we lived in tents down near the lake. Once when we were both staying at the Burlington Emergency Shelter on North Street, I think it was 1995, there was a very aged old man named Frank staying there too. The shelter staff was responsible for doling out a bit of old Frank's SSI money so he could go downtown to the lunch counter at the now defunct Woolworths and drink coffee until it was time for the shelter to open in the evening. Every morning, Randy would steal that money if he got the chance. I still remember how Randy once promised to sell a fellow homeless man's paper food stamps for fifty cents on the dollar. He did sell them. And then he kept the money. This set off an uproar among the homeless population and two other men tracked Randy down and beat him up for it. Randy called the police and claimed this had been a mugging. If memory serves, the two vigilantes were charged with strong arm robbery. In winter 2007-08, while Randy was Abby R.'s 'care assistant' and living with her down the street from my own apartment, he tried to bite my thumb off one night while drunk. It was all over an Xbox 360 baseball game. His game system. My apartment. I beat him 35-04 in a 9 inning Yankees v. Red Sox scrimmage. He had a temper tantrum and attacked me. By that time he had been living with and abusing Abby for so long that he had developed the bad habit of treating everyone as if we were all defenseless and disabled women. He had been to the drunk tank a few nights prior after getting his nose broken at a sports bar on Burlington's Main Street. Running his mouth. Making threats. When, like a wild animal, he tried to bite my left thumb off, I attempted to save it, first by punching him in the head, then by pulling on his ear. Everything stopped for a moment. He had my left wrist in a double grip. I told him
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to stop biting me. Somehow, without letting me go, he looked right in my eyes and said, "Huck You!" When he adjusted his teeth, plainly seeking the gap in the joint at the base of my thumb, so as to tear it away, I took my right thumb and burst one of his eyeballs. He let go.

THE AUTHOR He then left my house and went home and then to the hospital and then, eventually, to depositions. He told the police and the state's attorney that I had held him hostage and tortured him for hours. He alleged that I was trying to make him sign over the cash inheritance he'd received from his dead mother's estate. Randy, being a huge fan of television's LAW AND ORDER, must have figured he could get me jailed for unlawful restraint, extortion, maybe even a life sentence for kidnapping. Of course the Burlington Police were more than happy to arrest me for aggravated assault. I have never been allowed the basic right of selfdefense by those swine. So yeah, I spent four months in jail and three more out on bail before that set of false charges were finally dismissed.

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I know it is not helpful, except in terms of “validation,” but persons with mental disabilities have one of the highest rates as victims of crimes, and there is a huge history of failure to prosecute. We aren’t considered as being very good or reliable witnesses, or believable. It’s the same reason for some of the really bad health outcomes. If we report physical symptoms, it's very obviously “all in his/her head” and gets ignored. It is a huge travesty.

- Vermont State Rep. Anne de la Blanchetai Donahue (R)

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