As #ADAPT (Americans Disabled Attendant Programs Today) and other disability rights groups protest against the electroshocking of autistic kids at the Judge Rotenberg Center, it's important to note that the school is not the only thing they're fighting. Those who fight the center are battling against American culture itself.

The disabled have often been tortured at institutions like Judge Rotenberg Center

Torturing disabled people, particularly those with mental disabilities, in the name of treatment is as American as apple pie. Many people forget that the reason most mental hospitals were shut down had little to do with President Ronald Reagan, most were shut down after a hard-hitting piece exposed the truth about institutions.

Photos of Willowbrook, a New York institution for the disabled, featured pictures of kids in squalid conditions, abuse of every kind, and barbaric tortures in the name of treatment.

As the Willowbrook investigation dragged on, more facilities got caught in the controversy for similar practices. Soon, the word institution became a synonym for abuse. This is why ADAPT is fighting to end institutionalization at the Judge Rotenberg Center and other places. Institutions tend to make people more vulnerable to abuse.

Make no mistake, these people are vulnerable. Our culture presumes anyone with a disability to be either completely incompetent or insanely manipulative. So if they try to speak out about abuse, institutions like the Judge Rotenberg Center seize control of the narrative.

A kid who is reporting abuse is typically deemed to be a naive fool being coached by activists or just someone who wants to manipulate others to get revenge. That's why it takes graphic photos and video to get something done. However, there's another aspect that keeps the school operating.

Fearful parent groups have often defended abuse of disabled

Whenever an institution like Judge Rotenberg Center comes up, there will inevitably be the contrarian who says that shutting it down violates the right of the parents to send their kids there. After all, they say, if some parent wants their kid electroshocked, why should we judge?

Certainly, outside groups like ADAPT shouldn't be allowed to interfere. American culture tries to presume parents to be nearly perfect up until the kid is a step from death or naked photos of the kid wind up on the dark web.

In the case of disabled kids, this can get particularly bad. If the parent claims they are desperate, they will have a lot of support in their corner. Consider the case of Micheal and Sharen Gravelle. The Ohio parents were convicted of keeping multiple autistic children in cages. However, they were defended by many parents rights groups like the Home School Legal Defense Association, who called them "heroic." Despite the severity of the abuse, the Gravelles were out of jail in two years.

When it comes to kids with disabilities, abuse is often defined as acceptable "extreme measures" whether it's cages or electroshock. People rally to abusers after hearing about all the alleged flaws the kids have. Many defenders of the Judge Rotenberg Center are conspiracy theorists who believe that the government stepping in to end abuse is a step in a larger plot to confiscate kids from their parents. The parents of the kids themselves can be counted on to fight for the school tooth and nail.

What you end up with is a bunch of government officials from the FDA on down worried about the reactions of the "desperate" parents and anti-government allies. However, disability rights groups should take heart.

It's not all bad news.

Shutting down Judge Rotenberg Center will take cultural shift

Ending injustice always takes a massive change in culture. The Americans with Disabilities Act did not pass in a day. It took years of disability rights groups forcing the issue. In the same way, concerned groups need to keep pressing the issue of shutting down the Judge Rotenberg Center. The fact that the FDA has gotten this far is a good sign. The school can no longer control the way it once it did. As more kids speak up, it will get harder. The generation that found abuse acceptable in the name of treatment is dying off.

It is on advocates to make sure the next one doesn't repeat their mistakes.