In April 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration held an advisory panel hearing on a potential proposed ban of aversive conditioning devices used for contingent electric shock — the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts, is the only known institution to currently use such devices for behavioral modification. Ian Cook, a survivor of the JRC who spent several years in that institution, gave testimony in person. This is the transcript of that testimony taken from the official hearing transcript.
MR. COOK: Hello. I am Ian Cook. My legal name is Hilary Cook. And thank you for having me here today. I was a student at JRC from 2006 to 2009 and was on the GED-4 for the majority of the time I was there.
The only good thing that the JRC did for me was taking me off of my medication. It turned out they were at the root of my problems. The GED, however, didn’t help me at all, on the contrary. I had been put on the GED due to my previous aggressive behavior. That said, I cannot remember a single time I was ever shocked for said behavior.
Most of my shocks were for noncompliance or disruption. In fact, I was also subject to a method known as BRLs. While I was sitting in a restraint chair, a staff would burst into my conference room — I was one-onone alone with staff — and screamed at me to hurt him holding a knife. Even though I did absolutely nothing and sat there in shock, not having any idea what was going on, I would receive a shock from the GED device. This happened a couple of times a week, at first, and left me in a constant state of fear, never knowing when I’d be hurt for no reason.
My experiences from the GED have affected me to this very day. I now suffer from a fear of authority, a fear of being controlled, and I panic when presented with either.
A side note. I was in an abusive relationship two years ago, and part of why I fell prey to it — my belief — is that JRC instilled a lesson in me that it is okay for people to hurt me so long as they are trying to correct me.
I have, to the best of my knowledge, not experienced any beneficial effects, both either short term or long term, from the effects of the GED. I would strongly suggest, based on my personal experience and my ongoing difficulties, that the FDA ban the current and future use of the device.
Thank you very much for having me.
Text-accessible transcript with image descriptions graciously provided by Jack Dunn. This article is so hugely important, and comes in the midst of very visible, national organizing under the banner of Black Lives Matter, and is especially important for anyone (Black, non-Black people of color, and white people trying to practice allyship) who is sick, disabled, low or no-income, rural, etc. and may not know how you can contribute valuably and non-shittily when much emphasis is on showing up in the streets (which is not always accessible for many reasons to many of the most marginalized people).
[image is a four page brochure. It is titled: “26 ways to be in the struggle beyond the streets”, with large black font on bright orange background. Beneath is a long list in two-column magazine formatting.
It reads: This list is designed to celebrate all the ways that our communities can engage in liberation. For a range of reasons, there are and always have been folks who cannot attend rallies and protests but who continue to contribute to ending police and state violence against black people.
People seek justice and support liberation in an array of ways, yet their bodies, their spirits, and their lives may not allow them to be in the streets. We believe that we will win. And we need the presence of everyone in the movement to do so. We affirm that all contributions are political, militant, and valued.
By and for those in our communities who can’t be in the streets, we offer a list of concrete ways that we are in the movement, and that we are supporting liberation every day. We see you. We are you. See you in the struggle.
1. Host or attend a Know Your Rights Training to educate yourself, your loved ones, and your community on their rights when interacting with the police. Here are a few organizations, mostly
in New York City, that host these trainings and/or have resources available on their website you can download and use:
▶▶ Justice Committee, justicecommittee.org
▶▶ Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, mxgm.org
▶▶ Streetwise And Safe (NYC), streetwiseandsafe.org
▶▶ FIERCE (NYC), fiercenyc.org
▶▶ CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities (NYC),
▶▶ People’s Justice (NYC), peoplesjustice.org
▶▶ Communities United for Police Reform (NYC),
▶▶ Arab Resource and Organizing Center (Bay Area),
▶▶ National Lawyers Guild (national), nlg.org
2. Fundraise online, donate business proceeds, or create events for organizations that work on police violence, police accountability, and against the criminalization of black communities. The groups listed above are a great place to start. In addition, national organizations need support, including:
▶▶ Black Lives Matter, blacklivesmatter.com
▶▶ Ferguson Action, fergusonaction.com
▶▶ Ferguson National Response Network,
▶▶ Black Youth Project 100, byp100.org
3. Spread the word on rallies, actions, events, and demands through social media, text, email, phone, and in person. Here are a few orgs and ways to plug in and share info:
▶▶ Justice League NYC has a list of demands for police accountability at gatheringforjustice.org
▶▶ Communities United for Police Reform is calling for 11 Days of Action for Eric Garner from Wednesday 12/10/14 until Sunday 12/20/14: thisstopstoday.org
▶▶ Use hashtags when sharing, and search these hashtags for more info:
4. Offer to be the emergency contact for people attending marches and rallies. Get the person’s full legal name and date of birth. Make sure to know the numbers for the National Lawyers Guild (nlg.org), Central Booking, local precincts, and local hospitals. Check in by text once an hour so that you’re aware of their whereabouts and current protest conditions. If possible, also try and know whether folks require any medications that can’t be skipped in a 24-48 hour time period.
5. Attend planning meetings or strategy calls for anti-police violence and anti-criminalization organizations. In addition to the organizations that we’re listed, here are a few anti-criminalization organizations that are great resources:
▶▶ Critical Resistance (national), criticalresistance.org
▶▶ INCITE (national), incite-national.org
6. Support or organize healing justice events. Adrienne Maree Brown, Adaku Utah, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Susan Raffo have created a list of healing practices to sustain care in protest here (bit.ly/13dugxA). Create space to facilitate these practices with others.
7. Cook a pre- or post-march meal or pack food for people attending protests, marches, and events.
8. Coordinate or provide childcare for people attending marches, rallies, and events. Be sure to make plans for extenuating circumstances, such as arrests. Keep in mind that it may not make sense to offer childcare support unless there’s a strong relationship between the childcare providers and the children whose parents/caregivers are marching. This is important so childcare providers can continue to support if children are separated from their parents for a longer period than expected. Try to plan for childcare to take place in a home, not at the marches/rallies themselves. This will be important should childcare providers need to make arrangements for overnight support.
9. Create and share art, music, poetry, and stories that speak on issues relating to police violence, criminalization of black communities, social justice, stories and images of resistance, solidarity, and resiliency. Create new chants, make signs, reach out to organizers to see what materials they need designed. Share and support the work of black artists and people of color who are impacted by these struggles. Cultural work is resistance!
10. Create a home base for the evening, where folks who are protesting can take physical and emotional breaks indoors with others. A home base can also be a great space to gather people working as emergency contacts or doing other types of remote support for protesters.
11. Continue to reflect on your privilege, power, and identity if you’re white or a non-black person of color. Look at the history of racism, race being used as a wedge issue (i.e. API communities), and of aspiring ally-ship or solidarity between your folks and black communities. Find like-identified folks to workshop with, and have conversations with family, friends, co-workers, and community members to help build awareness and solidarity in the service of ending anti-black racism. Utilize your online media presence to reflect black perspectives. Be a conduit on social media where black activists are speaking, engaging, agitating, and showing up. Showing up as a non-black POC or white person can mean supporting to multiply the message.
12. Be a grounding or self-care buddy: breathe with someone before they leave for the march. Help them create a post-march grounding plan. Give them regular text check-ins from your home, and friendly reminders of support to drink water, eat, ground themselves, etc. Send sweet emojis or whatever else would help the person marching, and ask that person to text you when they’re home safe from the march.
13. Offer to help create a safety plan for friends who have physical pain, varying mobilities, and/or mental health concerns and want to participate in the march. This might include:
▶▶ what they might need before and after the action(s)
▶▶ self-care boundaries such as pre-determining amount of time spent on the street
▶▶ being clear about what might help prevent or delay pain or anxiety
>> what signs to be aware of re: onset of pain or mental health challenges
▶▶making agreements ahead of time to give themselves permission to exit early upon first signs of onset
▶▶what they will do/where they will go if triggered or hurt and what will be comforting post-march that could be arranged ahead of time
14. Create intentional spiritual space. If you have a spiritual practice or practice community this is a great opportunity to come together and set an intention for your work together toward supporting the movement. That could look like opening the space up for others join you in meditation, prayer, chanting, singing, centering, Jo Kata, etc. If you have physical space where you practice, this could also include opening the doors to invite in protesters who need rest, water, food, warmth.
15. Volunteer. When organizations on the frontlines are using most of their resources to get people out on the streets, they need volunteers to provide IT support, collect supplies for demonstrations, answer phones, do data entry, upload, organize, and archive documentation. Check with organizations about volunteer opportunities and needs.
16. Work with teachers. If you’re an experienced educator, write curriculum and support other educators in talking about these issues. Host a conference call with teachers to strategize on how to talk with students about what’s happening and how they can get involved. Especially consider organizing trainings and teach-ins on the real herstory of Black Lives Matter: thefeministwire.com/2014/10/blacklivesmatter-2.
17. Share skills. If you are experienced in organizing demonstrations, facilitating trainings on community security or marshalling, being a medic, providing jail support, or being a legal observer, then host trainings, create educational documents, and support people one-on-one in building their skills. For example, if you know how to create medic or care kits for people in the streets, organize a kit-making party or use your resources to put a few together to send out with trained folks during protests.
18. Make space to process. If these are your communities, hold processing moments for black, queer, trans, and migrant community members who are unable to attend protests for any reason, but who are deeply affected and policed.
19. Hold space and/or organize events centering the experiences of black people on probation or parole to talk about their experiences of police violence and surviving state supervision, incarceration, and state violence.
20. Skype, text, visit, and show love for those who are in pain, injured in protest, and/or managing trauma from tear gas, police brutality, physical, and/or emotional violence. Follow up with the community member by affirming their needs and creating support mechanisms. Remember that state violence also impacts our spirit.
21. Help amplify the protests by circulating breaking news visuals of actions, protests, and events from those in the streets to reach a wider audience. If asked, serve as an off-site spokesperson or media contact for protests. Offer to help write advisories and media releases, if needed.
22. Translate documents, media, and support being circulated about protests to international press and other outlets if you are multilingual.
23. Support people with disabilities and multiple cognitive experience by writing captions for images to convey messages in photos and footage. This amplifies these messages and increases information sharing.
24. Attend and/or circulate events/panels that are central to black perspectives and challenging anti-black racism. Promote these events and support those around you to incorporate these issues and experiences into their own events.
25. Start conversations. Bring conversations about the importance of black lives and ending criminalization and state violence against black communities into your workplace, school, library, church, family.
26. Take care of yourself! Self-care is a revolutionary act. The criminalization of black communities, police violence against black people, and the devaluing of black lives is traumatizing. These instances and the constant deluge of information can not only cause trauma but also bring up vicarious trauma and sap our individual and collective energy to create change. Step away from the computer or the TV and take time to remember what we’re fighting for—the people we love, and take time to call community. Allowing yourself to feel, express rage, cry, and experience joy in these times is not only critical but essential.
Piper Anderson, Kay Ulanday Barrett, Ejeris Dixon,
Ro Garrido, Emi Kane, Bhavana Nancherla, Deesha
Narichania, Sabelo Narasimhan, Amir Rabiyah, and
Meejin Richart. Design by Alana Yu-lan Price.
On the inside page is a black and white photo of BLM protestors holding signs]