Content/trigger warning: torture, violent ableism
Electric shocks are dangerous. Even a child can tell you that. But when is a shock dangerous? Let’s talk about amperage for a moment. Milliamperes (mA) are a unit of measurement for electricity; mA refers to the amount of electrical current passing through an object. At 100 to 200 mA, shocks start becoming fatal; 2 seconds of 100 mA current can be deadly, even at low voltages (voltage being the pressure from an electrical circuit’s power source that pushes current through a conductor). Tasers and stun guns usually operate between 2 and 4 mA, and even cattle prods operate at less than 20 mA. So if there were an electrical device intended to shock humans at a maximum amperage of 90 mA, you’d think that would be illegal in the United States, right?
Unless you are Autistic or have a developmental or intellectual disability.
The GED (graduated electronic decelerator) device was created by a despicable piece of shit named Matthew Israel in the early 90s to be used on his students at an institution called the Judge Rotenberg Center as part of the JRC’s “behavior modification program.” The Judge Rotenberg Center is a supposed school and residential treatment center in Canton, Massachusetts, and the students at the JRC are adults and children who are Autistic or have developmental or intellectual disabilities. Most of them are BIPOC.
Specifications on the GED device can be found here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/04/25/2016-09433/banned-devices-proposal-to-ban-electrical-stimulation-devices-used-to-treat-self-injurious-orThis device is not legal to use on a pet, livestock, an abled child, or an abled adult. But the students at the JRC are subjected to excruciating and dangerous skin shocks from the GED device because they are Disabled and have “behavioral problems.” This despite the fact that the United Nations has disavowed GED device use as torture. Here is an incomplete list of reasons why students at the JRC have been shocked:
- Breaking a Styrofoam cup
- Not taking their coat off
- Wetting the bed
- Moaning in pain due to a broken tooth
- Standing up out of their chair
- Not working for a duration of 10 seconds
(Thanks to @AutSciPerson on Twitter for compiling that list.) So if the JRC has been using these devices since the early 90s, why am I talking about it now? Because in 2020, the tireless efforts of activists like Lydia X. Z. Brown (who also maintains a repository of information about the JRC, which can be found here: https://autistichoya.net/judge-rotenberg-center/), the FDA banned the use of GED devices as part of “behavior modification.” On July 7, 2021, that ban was overturned due to a lawsuit levied by the JRC. The lawsuit was supported by not just credentialed BCBAs who work at the JRC (but BCBAs would never condone torture of Disabled people, noooooo) and JRC higher-ups, but the parents of current students. The Disabled community is devastated, stunned, and horrified. ASAN released a statement about this legal decision: https://autisticadvocacy.org/2021/07/asan-denounces-court-ruling-on-electric-skin-shock/ (Note: ASAN has a history of not representing Autistic people with intellectual disabilities and/or Autistic BIPOC well, and recently they were accused of plagiarizing an Indigenous activist and responded with a bucketload of litigious racist bullshit. Please don’t give them money even if you use their resources. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a better easy-to-read breakdown of the legal issues at hand.)
You can learn more about this horrific ableist human rights abuse by following the #StopTheShock hashtag on Twitter and also by following Disabled people like @autistictic and @autisticats who have been spreading information about the JRC’s human rights abuses, especially Disabled BIPOC like @queerdeaf and @autistichoya.There is a change.org petition to #StopTheShock: https://www.change.org/p/fda-ban-torture-of-people-with-disabilities-and-stoptheshock/u/22696808
Action items for #StopTheShock can be found here (credit to @AutSciPerson again): https://docs.google.com/document/d/13wOLYBZq7iq13M_KTFqJEwSkvf7ccdjY1vvx0ei3lak/edit
I don’t have any other words for this. Even curse words fail me.
Please share this information and the action items. #StopTheShock #ShutDownTheJRC
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