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In Solidarity with Victims of Torture: A Survivor’s Short Response

June 26, 2013

Today, June 26th, is the International Day in Solidarity with Victims of Torture.  Today I’m joining with all victims, survivors and resisters to write about psychiatric torture, in the hope that our raised voices can put an end to it.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture in March 2013 called for an absolute ban on nonconsensual psychiatric interventions, including restraint, solitary confinement, and nonconsensual administration of electroshock, psychosurgery and mind-altering drugs such as neuroleptics.  He also urged repeal of legal provisions authorizing confinement and compulsory treatment in mental health settings, and said that detention on mental health grounds is unjustified.  See the statement of the Special Rapporteur, his report, and the response by the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry.  Note that the statement revises certain inconsistent positions that were left in the report.

If you can’t understand why nonconsensual psychiatric intervention is torture, then please read these (WARNING: TRIGGERING AS FUCK, ESPECIALLY THE LAST TWO):

Tina Minkowitz, “We Name It as Torture”

Faith Rhyne, “Trigger Warning: Why Is It So Hard to Think About Torture?”

Aubrey Ellen Shomo, “Remembering a Restraint”

Right now, 103 out of the 166 detainees at Guantanamo Bay are on hunger strike; 44 are being force-fed.  They are doing it because they are being held prisoner indefinitely, and this has already gone on for more than 10 years.  They are being tortured.  (Understand how here–again, triggering as fuck: “What more can they do to me?”)

What I went through was nothing compared to what others went through, nevertheless I can sympathize–I know what it’s like to be held down with doctors forcing stuff into me, I know what it’s like to be locked up for an indefinite period of time–until you’re “stable”, as the clinicians usually put it.  It is the same ugliness.

I hope one day American schoolchildren will take field trips to Guantanamo Bay, the way German ones take field trips to Auschwitz–to understand.  I hope that the same thing will one day be done with the places of psychiatric torture as well, like the Mt. Sinai Child Adolescent Inpatient Unit and the Judge Rotenberg Center.

In solidarity with all those still locked up, I offer this poem.  It is written about the time I was sent to Mt. Sinai as a teenager and assaulted by the staff there.  Above all, it is a love poem–as most of my poems are.

 

When they put me in the mental hospital

And violated my body with their drugs,

Forced needles into my sensitive places

And threw me still struggling into a small locked room

Where I wrote on the window in spit

Because pen and blood were forbidden to me,

I cried out,

But not for you.

I cried out for justice.

 

You have to understand this.

Let that knowledge cut into your guilt at not being there,

Cut it away and throw it to the dogs.

They are much abused, these poor dogs,

Yet too many still cravenly clinging to their master

And attacking their master’s enemies.

They were beaten and cast out into the street

Yet many of them still fear the beggar in the street more

Than the well-dressed man who put them there.

I can see and name this fear for what it is

Because I have been a victim of it.

 

Oh yes, I wanted you to be there.

Not to feel guilt, but so that you would understand

 

That in my tears and rage I was still beautiful,

In my hospital shift I was still sexy,

That their drugs did not take away my anger

Nor their needles my dignity.

 

Hold fast to this knowledge.  You may need it

In the dark times ahead.

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