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.