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Torture in the American Gulag by Tom Cahill, Part 2

(Torture in the American Gulag . . . )

Many prison rape survivors become rapists themselves in a demented attempt to regain what they think of as their “lost manhood.” If upon release, these prisoner rapists and survivors-turned-rapists continue this particular cycle of violence, might they not victimize women as easier and preferred prey? If so, we may have identified a major root cause for the escalating rape rate of women in free society. Survivors are often walking, breathing time bombs.

Some prison rape victims retaliate by murdering their rapists, receiving added years to their sentence. Another outcome of prison rape is suicide. Researchers have found that suicide is the leading cause of death behind bars. Sexual harassment is the leading cause of prisoner suicide. Yet another consequence is disease. Hepatitis-C and AIDS spread by prisoner rape can be a death sentence. An Ohio man contracted AIDS from rape in jail and infected his wife who bore two children who in turn tested HIV positive (Associated Press, Jan. 6, 1988).

Severe psychosis is the most common outcome of prisoner rape. Sexual assault can often break a prisoner’s spirit without even breaking his skin, resulting in shame, rage and all the actions related to these emotions. With some people, just the threat of sexual assault can induce rape trauma syndrome which is similar to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Researchers have found that it takes an average of ten years for a woman to heal from rape and that many male rape survivors never heal because of pressures placed on men that are only beginning to be understood. The rape of male prisoners is especially destructive in that they are usually gang-raped.

In the advanced stages of rape trauma syndrome, a survivor’s mood often swings between deep depression and rage. Prisoner rape may be the quickest, most cost-effective way of producing a sociopath or, in Richard Allen Davis’s case, a psychopath. The fact, according to researchers, that most men on death row were sexually abused earlier in life should come as no surprise. Indeed, it is a clue that we in free society ignore at our peril.

Dr. James Gilligan, psychiatrist and director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Harvard Medical School, has discovered that shame is the “deadly emotion.” “It works to deaden the feelings of being human…Shame a petty criminal in prison and you may get a serial murderer after his term has been served.” (Violence; Our Deadly Epidemic And Its Causes, Dr. James Gilligan, 1996).

While I was on a speaking tour in Texas for Amnesty International in February, 1999, I met the parents of a prisoner who confirmed my suspicion that John William King was most probably sexually assaulted in prison a few years earlier. King, you may recall, was the young, white man recently convicted and sentenced to be executed for dragging to death a black man last year in Jasper, Texas. This prisoner, once confined with King, told his parents that King was probably gang-raped by members of the Crips, a nationwide gang of blacks. King was just an average, Texas, good ole boy, redneck racist—not a particularly mean one—when he first arrived in prison, the prisoner reported. But soon afterward, King was “turned out” (raped) and turned vicious.

One of King’s court-appointed attorneys, Brack Jones, was quoted by The Dallas Morning News, Feb. 19, 1999, as having said, “Something…obviously happened to him (King) in the penitentiary.” In news accounts, including that of Time for March 8, 1999, words like “attacked,” and “assaulted*” were used to describe what may have happened to King at the Beto 1 Prison Unit in Texas several years ago. But no account that I read or heard until my trip to Texas in February ever mentioned sexual assault which is a big step up the ladder of violence.

The prisoner in Texas refuses to go public with his information for fear of reprisal by prisoners and/or guards. But any psychoanalyst knowledgeable about rape trauma syndrome or torture syndrome should be able to verify the prisoner’s claim by examining King. If the claim is indeed true, I charge that voters in general, and the criminal justice system in particular, share some responsibility for the brutal torture-murder of James Byrd Jr., as well as the sexual torture of John William King. As it is, King gets the death penalty while the criminal justice system that made him a killer is never even indicted.

The major media is negligent for not having dug a lot deeper into King’s motivation. Here we have two stories of sexual misconduct, “Monicagate” and the issue of prisoner rape. Both are national scandals. The more titillating and glamorous story gets overplayed by the media. Guess which one has been underplayed since the first recorded prisoner rape in the US in 1826?

“…my country has betrayed me.”