trust

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{Image is a screenshot of The Mighty, where the post used to be. The text reads, “We removed a story that was titled “This Is the Letter I Would Give My Past Self on the Day We Got the Diagnosis” because it contained sections that were previously published in this post. Thank you to everyone who pointed this out to us. We apologize for this mistake, especially to Jess Wilson, the author of the original blog. We will do more to check the originality of future stories submitted to us.”}

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Yesterday, a reader told me that there was something I needed to see on The Mighty. There was a letter there, by a mom of a child on the spectrum. It was part of a series of “What I Would Tell Myself When I or My Child Was Diagnosed,” submissions.

The letter looked startlingly familiar. Because she didn’t write it. I did.

In 2009, I wrote a post called Welcome to the Club. It was a letter to a friend whose daughter was in the process of being diagnosed (funnily enough, it turned out that she wasn’t on the spectrum, but that’s not really here nor there), but really, it was a letter to myself, and to every one of us who needed to know – or to be reminded – that it was going to be okay.

That post made it around the world and back more than a million times over. It’s been linked to from Heaven knows how many sites. It’s been published in two anthologies, one in the States and one in Australia. And there it was, on The Mighty. But with someone else’s name. And photos of her with her son. And her signature. I couldn’t breathe.

She’d made some tiny changes, like inserting her name where I’d written, “my friend,” but none of them were significant enough to mask the fact that paragraph after paragraph had been lifted directly from my post. The words were mine.

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{image is the photo that accompanies Welcome the Club – me carrying Brooke on the beach, taken by my favorite shutterbug, Connerton Photography. All rights reserved.}

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of posts that I thought were reminiscent of something I’d written. And that’s great. If we’re doing this right, then we’re all inspiring one another. I’ve assuredly riffed off of others just as they have me, or reinvented an old wheel without realizing it. But this wasn’t inspiration nor reinvention. This was blatant plagiarism, and it was wrong.

The Mighty eventually took the post down and, in its place, published an apology, which I very much appreciate. I have no doubt that no one there was aware of the situation before it was brought to their attention, and I’m grateful that they did what needed to be done to maintain their credibility as I think the site is great and I’d love to see it continue to grow.

But still, I can’t stop wondering how anyone thought it was okay, in any way, shape, or form, to claim my words as her own.

The truth is that it hurt. A lot. A lot more than I would have imagined. That letter is, like so much I write here, intensely personal, the words raw and real. It meant, and means, a lot to me. As a friend said last night, I pour not just my time (and a lot of it), but my heart and my soul into this space – into building understanding, compassion, and ultimately, a world that looks just a little more welcoming to our kids and each other than the one that we found when we arrived.

Welcome to the Club is a big part of that.

I don’t know what to do with all of this. My work is copyrighted, of course, so I suppose I could exercise my legal right to, well, whatever. But it’s just not the point. The woman who claimed my work as her own had it up, until last night, on a site that solicits donations for a 501(c)3 foundation that she runs, in her son’s name, to support families in her area who need help providing resources for an autistic family member. I hope to God it’s real. That this incident isn’t indicative, as one would automatically assume, of a broad lack of integrity, but of a momentary lapse in judgment, of which we are all, to some degree or another, capable. I want to believe that. That it’s possible that she really is doing the good she claims to be doing. I don’t know how many of you have been around long enough to remember Marissa’a Bunny, but those were bleak times for our community. As Ellen at Love that Max put it at the time, “Promises have gone unfulfilled, accusations are flying, curtains are being looked behind. It’s troubling, especially in a community that’s centered around trust, caring, goodwill and doing good.”

I think that’s the crux of it really. This community, whether it be the big ole group of us meeting up and finding our way together in the ether, or just those of us gathered together here on Diary, is centered around trust. That means something. And it hurts like hell when it’s broken.

 

23 thoughts on “trust

  1. I’m really sorry that happened to you, Jess. It should never happen to anyone, and I know everyone deserves better than that, but for some reason I feel that your work deserves a little more “better” than most.

  2. Jess – I am so sorry that this happened. You are an amazing writer. you inspire me all the time and sometimes I quote you. In fact I had to stop for awhile because I was starting to feel like all I ever had to say was “Yeah – what she said!”. That is the good part of this – to know how strongly your words speak to and for all of us. For someone else to claim them though, that is just wrong at so many levels. Not only because of the ethical and legal issues it raises, but because it invalidates you. It steals your voice. And we all know, in a large part because of how well you speak up about it, how very hard it is to be “unheard”. Hugs Jess. I can promise you whenever I share your words – no matter how much they reverberate for ME – I attribute them to YOU. Your voice matters so much!

  3. If it was really just a naive mistake (.hard to believe.), the plagiarizer’s 501 c3 might be “encouraged” to make a contribution to one of the causes you support. Or, hear from your counsel.

    • ironically, hers is the kind of charity i’d support. that’s the most frustrating part. if she’s really doing what she says she is, providing resources to those who need it in her local area, well, i don’t want this, no matter how egregious it is, to stop that from happening. just sucks.

  4. Your words knock around in my head on a daily basis. I script them sometimes like my boy scripts Backyardigans when things get to be too much. “Presume competence” has become a go-to phrase (among many of yours) that I’ve incorporated into my own word bank because it gives me words to say something that I wanted to say before but could not. I have gratitude for your gift of writing because it has made Andrew’s world so much more accessible to me, and I am a much more effective advocate now with your words in my arsenal. That said, I am sorry for the violation of your gift to us, the parents who needed the words but couldn’t find them. The words that you’ve generously shared so that we too can do our best daily for our loved ones and friends. I hope this doesn’t make you reconsider your decision to share them. If it does though, thank you for the ones you’ve already shared. We wouldn’t be where we are in our house without them. Your words help me help my boy.THANK YOU.

  5. Im so sorry Jess. You have a right to be upset. You are an amazing writer and person and she had no right taking what was yours. Praying peace for you and although I wish I could say this will never happen again as great as you are, it probably will. Just keep your head high knowing you are not the one who is in the wrong. Keep on doing what your doing. We are listening!

  6. I am so sorry that happened. My husband is a lawyer specializing in not for profit and copyright issues. I just told him this and he said well you could take a person to court but usually in these kind of cases it wouldn’t bring the resolution you would want. I know the feeling of having one’s work taken and I heart your pain. ,,,and thanks so much for what you pour out -it helps my daughter and I on our journey,,,peace,,

  7. I’m not sure why, but it somehow seems even more sad that it is right there next to Chloe’s post in that series (which is a wonderful post, by the way, if anyone hasn’t read it yet!) I hope that the woman who did that just used very poor judgement in trying to help support an otherwise good cause. I really hate to think otherwise.

  8. Jess, first of all, I am so sorry! Second, it may be very worth it to examine your legal rights, just to make sure that what she is doing is in fact genuine and not fraudulent! Because if what she is doing is dishonest, people are contributing, not just funds, but precious words and support, all of which deserve to be used exactly for their intended purpose… If her website is credible, wonderful, if not, well, we can only hope she will not be allowed to carry on in such a manner! People deserve to know that their contributions are not being used for fraud!!! It is hard enough to get support and help for our children, we don’t need people feeding that monster with fake stories!!

    • The foundation is a registered 501(c)3. I want to assume it does what it says it does and will leave it to others to do their due diligence before donating, as, sadly, we all should always be doing with any charitable organization.

  9. Pingback: On blogging, autism/special needs, community and trust | St Monica's Bridge

  10. I am in no way saying that it’s okay what she did but your words are so touching and inspirational that I can see how a person could feel like you are speaking to her own reality, touching her heart that she, albeit, illegally and at the very least, in bad taste uses your words to convey her own experience!!

  11. I’m so sorry this happened, Sweetheart! There was absolutely no excuse for stealing something that was solely yours to share.

    Love you,
    Mom

  12. Jess, I am so so sorry!!! When I first started blogging someone copied the words from my “Be Still” piece and put them on their blog. They copied every word the only change they made was “she” instead of “he”. I emailed the blogger and told her to take the piece down from her blog and ponted out to her that she was plagiarizing. I was so mad. Like you my words and my writing are personal. I share them with the world because it helps me and it is my hope that they might help someone else. So again I am so so very sorry. The Welcome to the Club piece is beautiful and has brought me comfort and hope many many times.

  13. Kudos to them for removing the piece and issuing the statement. The same has happened to me, and to my son who designs autism awareness pieces. I will never understand what motivates people to steal in this way. I suppose when we put ourselves out there in print, we risk our words, our ideas, and our creativity being pilfered and claimed as something other than our own. Plagiarism is a vile thing.

  14. I’m so sorry that happened. I’m befuddled that she thought no one would notice. Bizarre. Rest assured, we know your heart and your words and can recognize them when we see them.

  15. Jess- I am an admin member of PAM (Portland Autism Moms) in Oregon. We have over 650 members of a moms only support group who our focus is to help moms navigate on the road to acceptance for their child. I am working along side Autism Society of Oregon and we are putting together a New to Diagnosis workshop for our moms just starting their journey. With all the resources information we are providing, I also had volunteers from PAM members contribute to a small portion of the binders we are putting together “Advice from Veterans”. With this I am putting a copy of your blog post Welcome to the Club” (don’t worry.. you get full credit!). When I receive an email from new moms I can’t say it better than what you wrote. I also have them read your blog. I want them to know everything will be OK. That it is not doom or gloom, but to look at autism in a whole new way. You do this better than anyone. Thank you for what you do! Our group is one of a kind and we are hoping we can inspire similar support groups in more States. We have active autistic adults in the Portland area who advise on certain topics. We include their voice. We have autistic moms in our group. Our focus is on moms and families meeting each other, our kids meeting other autistic kids and parents meeting autistic adults to learn from them. It takes a village… and we have one big awesome village here in Portland, Oregon.

  16. Love, Love, Love, that she contacted you and apologized on Facebook. I saw the post, and the apology, and the comments following – full of positive emotions and welcoming. Seriously awesome!

  17. I can’t imagine why someone would do something like this. Everyone has their own story!! While there will be moments when you know exactly what is being conveyed, almost as if you wrote it yourself. You didn’t!!! This is a hard place to be but u really think she should be stopped if indeed enough integrity to steal your words and campaign for donation with those words she should be stopped. Think of it as an invention , what would you do ?

  18. Pingback: For The Mighty: If I Could Go Back | Pucks and Puzzle Pieces

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