Autistic people are being tortured in the US, and you can help stop it.
By Meg Hartley
Originally published in ArtfullyAutistic
As an Artfully Autistic reader, you may already be aware of the #StopTheShock movement, which has been working to stop the atrocious treatment of autistic and otherwise disabled people at the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Massachusetts. If not, I’m sorry to inform you that they are using shock devices on “patients” that have been labeled as torture by the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Torture.
This news wasn’t the only ingredient, but I literally had a nervous breakdown after learning that this was happening in my own country. It was like my brain just couldn’t process such horror happening now, here, in the United States. I think that horror is part of why the torture has been allowed to continue — people have a hard time believing it’s really that bad because it’s just too much, it speaks too loudly about the kind of things we’re still secretly allowing in our society.
But it’s real. These people are real.
And you can help make it stop — anyone reading this! — but especially those of you living in Massachusetts (or who can pass the news onto people who do).
In MA, there is currently proposed critical state-level legislation that could finally stop the torture, an amendment ending the legality of causing people with physical, intellectual, or developmental disabilities pain in order to punish or teach them. If passed, bill H. 180 will ban aversive techniques like those used at JRC, banning procedures that cause “physical pain, including, but not limited to, hitting, pinching, and electric shock” and denying “reasonable sleep, food, shelter, bedding, bathroom facilities, and any other aspect expected of a humane existence” — atrocious treatment that should have never been permitted, or at least been put to a stop a long, long, time ago.
Hopes have been raised with similar bills before, but the state legislature has tragically failed to get them passed. It’s time for leaders to take this issue as seriously and get it done. To help raise pressure, support, and awareness, the Autistic Self Advocacy Center (ASAN) is organizing a Day of Action on May 22nd, something people in MA and beyond could help make a success.
Here’s the scoops:
Firstly (since there are more of you), if you aren’t a resident of Massachusetts, share this call to action soon and frequently! Get on social media to share links/info — ensuring that you’ve tagged #Massachusetts as well as #StopTheShock so it has a better chance at reaching resident eyes. Extra doses on the 22nd. And encourage MA residents to participate to take a couple of minutes to contact their senators about this crucially important bill. (And keep sounding the #StopTheShock alarm after the 22nd, the FDA is someone else that can act and just…isn’t.)
And if you are a resident of Massachusetts, please call your State Representative and Senator; you can find your State Representative here, and your State Senator here. ASAN’s provided a script to make this as easy as possible:
My name is [your full name] , and I am from [your city] . I am a constituent of [Senator/Representative NAME]. I’m calling to ask [Senator/Representative NAME] to support H.180 to ban aversive conditioning, or using pain to punish people. Aversive conditioning is harmful and not effective. Plus, Massachusetts is home to the only institution in the country to use electric shock devices for aversive conditioning on students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, a practice which has been classified as torture by the United Nations. This bill would ban that and keep all people with disabilities safe. Can I count on the [Senator/Representative]’s support for this bill?
This Day of Action will also be an in-person event at the Massachusetts State House! So, if you’re able, please join local protestors on May 22nd to speak with legislators’ offices in-person and raise awareness about the fight to #StopTheShock. ASAN provided this link to learn more and register.
Whether you’re in Massachusetts or on the moon, please, please, please make some noise about #StopTheShock.