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NY Abu Ghraib: Last minute forced electroshock by New York State Office of Mental Health

Simone D. has won her right to say "no" to forced electroshock by the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH). But not before OMH got in nine last minute forced electroshocks in the month before Simone's court victory. How are we to constructively respond to such overwhelming violence?

Simone D. and John Kelly were targeted by the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) for forced electroshock. OMH spent thousands of taxpayer dollars to go to court to get the power to give Simone and John forced electroshock.

MindFreedom International put out thousands of alerts, and people spoke out. And the attorneys for Simone and John both fought hard.

The result: Both Simone and John are now free of forced electroshock to their brains, and have won their battle to simply say "no" to such an intrusive procedure, and be heard.

However, Simone's victory is sullied by other news we have just received. As activist Laura Ziegler uncovers, in the weeks before Simone D.'s court victory, OMH gave Simone last minute electroshocks, nine to be exact, against Simone's will.

And now, the magazine Mother Jones has published a special investigation -- School of Shock -- by journalist Jennifer Gonnerman another type of extreme electroshock, this type the zapping of limbs and even the abdomen to change the behavior of inmates of the Rotenberg Center in Massachusetts, also with taxpayer money.

Forced electroshock to the brain in New York. Forced electrical zapping of people in Massachusetts. All paid for by us. The taxpayers.

How are we to constructively respond to such an Abu Ghraib type approach of extreme violence by New York State?

Some suggestions:

Be aware that extreme and overwhelming violence like this "works" in the short term by dispiriting people. I am glad to see activists speaking out and taking action, which is the antidote to despair. Action wins.

Be aware that the outrage that can result can sometimes lead us concerned people to divide among themselves. I am glad to see such unity among so many people who are speaking out about these human rights abuses. Mutual support wins.

For MindFreedom members in New York and Massachusetts, I'd especially encourage you to channel the negative energy into something positive. Consider organizing more and more affiliates in those states. Consider what nonviolent action would most lead to concern by our opponents: Seeing us organize and unite and take action through many affiliates would definitely be a cause of concern for the doctors who are participating in and/or allowing the continued use of forced electricity to harm and traumatize people.

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Cookie Gant

Cookie (1949 - 2003) was a founder of MindFreedom International's coalition, and was a rolling coalition herself: African American lesbian disabled psychiatric survivor artist photographer! Cookie served on the MFI board for several years, and co-founded MindFreedom Michigan. (Photo by Tom Olin at an MFI international strategy conference.)
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