Despite her fame and fortune, pop singer Britney Spears is stuck in a conservatory that she just can’t shake off. Under the Virginia Code, a conservatory is established when an appointed person becomes responsible for the estate and financial affairs of another person who is judged to be “incompetent” by the court.
In some cases this is a beneficial arrangement as it gives the disabled person help with managing their personal affairs. Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. In many cases the restorer is exploiting, exploiting, or even abusing the power he has over his conservatives.
Spears claims to be stuck in that situation today. Back in 2016, Spears said in confidential court files held by the New York Times that she was tired of being exploited and that she was forced by the Conservatory to stay in a mental health facility and perform services against her will. In a 2021 appearance before a Los Angeles Supreme Court judge, she even announced that she was being forced to keep an IUD in her body to prevent pregnancy.
Britney was initially placed under a permanent Conservatory position in 2008 after a series of more public mental health crises. She lost control of her finances, assets and autonomy.
Since then, the #FreeBritney movement has grown in popularity. Fan theories about her admission to a mental health facility went viral in 2019, with speculation that she was admitted against her will. More recently, Spears has spoken out in a testimony against her conservatories about the abuse she has endured.
“I was in denial. I was in shock. I am traumatized. I just want my life back, ”Spears said.
If it can get that bad for Spears, imagine how bad it can get for those who don’t have a platform to speak out. People with physical and mental disabilities across the country have been stuck in similar abusive situations for years before the Spears case became known. The National Disability Council estimated in 2018 that there were 1.3 million active guardianship or care cases in court.
Since conserved people have to be considered “incompetent” in a certain way, these are often disabled people. In essence, in order to begin a restoration, the courts must consider that the potential restorer does not deserve the right to autonomy. This is often referred to as “for their own good”. Conservatories may work well for some people, but the system is too easily abused. This is not surprising when one adult is given full control over another adult’s financial, medical, and personal decisions.
“I think one of the things to keep in mind during discussions like this is a concept that evolved through the disability rights movement. It says ‘Nothing about us without us,’ ”said Joshua Pate from the JMU’s Faculty of Disability Studies. “No decisions about a population should be made without consulting that population or inviting them to join the conversation.”
Like everyone else, people with disabilities deserve autonomy in their lives. Spears has legions of loyal fans who support her fight, but there are those who are not that lucky. Pass laws to protect their freedoms. Increase their voices. And yes, #FreeBritney. But also free the many people who are deprived of their rights and autonomy in abusive conservatories.
Ken Kensky is a Junior Media Arts and Design Major. Contact Ken at [email protected]
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