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A piece by Kate Millett, read at the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in New York City on January 18, 2005.

"Freedom from Torture or Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment"

Date Published:

Jan 17, 2005 07:00 PM

Author: Kate Millett

My name is Kate Millett.  I’m speaking on behalf of the International Disability Caucus.  I’m a retired professor of politics and literature, the author of “Sexual Politics” and “The Politics of Cruelty”.    

         Freedom from Torture or Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment


For people with disabilities this means freedom from Forced Treatment and Confinement. 

Freedom from Force and Coercion.  Overwhelming and gigantic power.  The power of an entire civilization massed against one lone individual.  Every phone and lock and guard and drug. 

Even drugs, invading the mind.  Reaching into the very nooks and crannies of the Self, annihilating the person, destroying personality, the construct of a lifetime.  Overturned in the solitude of an afternoon, Time itself expanding and contracting, becoming perfectly internal.  Time to suffer, time to be tormented.  Humiliated. 

Despised.  Objectified.  Ridiculed.  Made into a pariah.  Enslavement.  Any deviation from a narrow prescribed behavior is punishment.  Behavior management.  Behavior Service Units.  Behavior controls.

Everything conspires to make you completely alone and terrified.  Malleable.  These are the conditions of torture.  You don’t know what’s coming next.  You don’t know how long this will last.  “No one will ever know” – a voice intones.  No one will ever believe you.

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Matt Morrissey

Matt Morrissey is on the MFI Choice in Mental Health Campaign Committee. Matt directs the adult day program at Full Spectrum Progressive Mental Health, which is a nonprofit center in San Francisco that offers voluntary programs for adults and adolescents in severe emotional distress. Full Spectrum is a Sponsor Group in MFI. Matt is shown here speaking at an MFI co-sponsored protest in front of the American Psychiatric Association. (Photo by Tom Olin)
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