"This article reframes electroconvulsive therapy as a form of violence against women. Drawing on women’s testimony and on scientific research, it establishes that this “treatment,” which is overwhelmingly given to women, results in extensive cognitive and physical impairment. Correspondingly, it functions and is experienced as a form of assault and social control, not unlike wife battery. Emergent themes include electroshock as life destroying, a sign of contempt for women, punishment, a means of enforcing sex roles, a way to silence women about other abuse, an assault, traumatizing for those who undergo it and those forced to witness it.
Keywords: assault; brain injury; ECT; electroshock; punishment; social control; trauma; vicarious trauma; violence against women
As a society, we have stereotypical notions of helper and violator, and the two do not easily go together in our minds. Professional, moreover, is imbued with authority that allows people recognized as such to set the rules and frame the discourse. Accordingly, although we may denounce specific individuals in the “helping professions” as violators and although we may question the efficacy of certain treatments, and although, indeed, we may even go further and protest the inherent sexism or racism of a profession and urge changes, we are reluctant to typify anything currently and routinely done in the helping professions as a form of abuse, as a form of violence.
I say currently for clearly we have no such qualms about professional practices legitimated in past eras. Note, in this regard, despite the fact that the inquisitors that burned to death hundreds of thousands of women were conventionally deemed spiritual helpers and diagnostic experts at the time, we now have no trouble typifying their actions as a form of violence against women, and a particularly horrific one at that. It is not primarily the past, however, from which people who are violated need protection. It is present practices ..."
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