A BRIEF HISTORY OF INSTITUTIONAL ABUSE IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (including Colonial America): Part 3
by Angela Smith, HEAL Coordinator
1700s (Pre-Revolutionary and Post-Revolutionary Colonial America)
What tools and practices were used to silence dissent and oppress everyday people in the 1700s?
In the 1700s, the same abuses of slavery, indentured servitude, and incarcerating/imprisoning those with opposing political views tormented everyday people. In Virginia, the first "mental hospital" was used to silence dissenters.
"Virginia’s Acting-Royal Governor and Chief Administrative Officer Francis Fauquier (1758-1768) struggled with the legality of imprisoning the innocent, as well as the lack of treatment for them. Publicly run hospitals specifically for the insane had been in practice for a century in France and England. Fauquier proposed a similar idea to be implemented on American soil.
The hospital was born of unruly times. In 1766, pre-Revolutionary-War America experienced growing anti-British grumblings and political unrest. Just one year prior, a 1765 British Stamp Tax had been imposed on the colonies. Mass riots and pillage ensued. Eventually the tax was repealed. Fauquier gave a speech calling for citizens’ gratitude and obedience to the British Parliament for this concession.
He also proposed the mental health hospital in this speech. Given the juxtaposition, it has been suggested that the governor was likening the violent protests against the Stamp Tax to unreasoned acts of the mentally ill. He described the insane as “persons who are so unhappy as to be deprived of their reason,” a phrase that could equally describe unruly dissenters. Taking this further, one might wonder if Fauquier hoped these protesters would be similarly contained.
What qualified as mental illness? A list of “supposed or assumed causes of insanity” for the hospital’s 754 patients in 1879 identifies 46 such causes. Many, such as excessive study, seduction, matrimony, or the fall of the confederacy, are unlikely to make the modern DSM. But some are familiar (e.g., loss of property, disappointment in love, intemperance, excessive fatigue, and ill health)." Source: http://www.the-hospitalist.org/details/article/252399/Mental_Health_in_Colonial_America.html
In the 1700s, political dissidents were labeled mentally ill in Virginia. This practice appears in 2014 with individuals like Keith Ablow (Fox News Contributor) "diagnosing" individuals with mental illness that do not share his political views.
"Recently, Fox's chief of psychiatry and right wing political hack, Dr. Keith Ablow, psychoanalyzed Bill Maher on Fox & Friends, "the morning happy-talk show that Ailes uses as one of his primary vehicles to inject his venom into the media bloodstream." This deep delving into the DSM IV was a reaction to Maher's satiric comments about Bristol Palin. Fox needed to hit back so they brought on Ablow to explain, in a professionally concerned manner, that Maher's comments stemmed from a deep seated hatred of conservative women. Ablow has also provided "diagnosesis " for Chaz Bono regarding his transgender status (none of Ablow's business) and Media Matters president, David Brock who was totally trashed, albeit in a "professional" manner. This seems to be Fox News' newest and rather creative line of personal attack, given that these "virtual" evaluations focus on what Dr. Ablow thinks are personality disorders in whomever he attacks. (Whoops, diagnoses) This could represent a violation of professional ethics; but for Fox News, character assassination, given by a board certified physician, trumps any issues of professionalism." Source: http://www.newshounds.us/2011/07/14/bill_maher_responds_to_dr_keith_ablows_virtual_psychiatric_evaluation.php
Returning to the 1700s, we find the dreaded "Asylums". Places where the sick and outcast were sent for "treatment". These "asylums" were abusive, inhumane, and dehumanizing.
"These men and women were often kept chained or locked up in their homes. Beatings and malnutrition were common among them, if they weren’t locked up at home, sometimes the more violent mentally handicapped were tied to the stake at their local workhouse or poorhouse. Dr. William Perfect, a doctor in England who cared for th[ese] “unfortunates” as they were called, remembered being called in 1776 by English Officers to see, “a maniacal man they had confined in their workhouse...He was secured to the floor by means of a staple and an iron ring, which was fastened to a pair of fetters about his legs, and he was handcuffed. Continual visitors were pointing at, ridiculing and irritating the patient, who was thus made a spectacle of modern sport...by several feats of dexterity, such as threading a needle with his toes,” Such was the treatment of these unfortunates, and thus remained with the formation of the Asylum. The Asylum is defined as a dated institution offering shelter and support to the mentally ill.
However th[ese] early institutions were far from providing the support and care that these individuals needed. They beat, experimented, and learned from the mentally insane, causing one of the most formalized and institutionalized forms of patient treatment available that this world has ever seen. Once these institutions were abolished for more civilized and educated forms of treatment and containment in the 20th century, the memory and spirits of the criminally and medically insane were left to ro[am] the empty corridors and halls of the Asylum. This gave birth to the American Haunting, and gave rise to the most well known haunted sites in the world." Source: http://ryuhawk.hubpages.com/hub/The-Asylum-in-the-1700s
Those individuals unwilling to be subjugated, enslaved, and abused were imprisoned and "diagnosed" with "mental illness" for being unable to control their unhappiness. While most articles covering historical abuses claim that things improved in the 19th and 20th centuries, those claims are overall unfounded. While public outcries resulted in lip service claiming new and more humane hospitals and sanctuaries, the brutality of forced labor, enslavement, and inequality continued throughout the United States and continues today.
"For many years, asylums were not facilities aimed at helping the mentally ill achieve any sense of normalcy or otherwise overcome their illnesses. Instead, asylums were merely reformed penal institutions where the mentally ill were abandoned by relatives or sentenced by the law and faced a life of inhumane treatment, all for the sake of lifting the burden off of ashamed families and preventing any possible disturbance in the community.
The majority of asylums were staffed by gravely untrained, unqualified individuals who treated mentally ill patients like animals. A case study describes a typical scene at La Bicetre, a hospital in Paris, starting with patients shackled to the wall in dark, cramped cells. Iron cuffs and collars permitted just enough movement to allow patients to feed themselves but not enough to lie down at night, so they were forced to sleep upright. Little attention was paid to the quality of the food or whether patients were adequately fed. There were no visitors to the cell except to deliver food, and the rooms were never cleaned. Patients had to make do with a little amount of straw to cover the cold floor and were forced to sit amongst their own waste that was also never cleaned up (Butcher 37). These conditions were not all unique to La Bicetre, and this case study paints a fairly accurate picture of a typical scene in asylums around the world from approximately the 1500s to the mid-1800s, and in some places, the early 1900s." Source: http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/283/2/the-history-of-mental-illness-from-skull-drills-to-happy-pills
In 2014, HEAL has found multiple behavior modification programs that treat enrolled children and adults like animals. And, most of these facilities are not properly licensed and have no on-site professionally licensed staff. Even those that have professionally licensed staff often oppress their professional staff and ignore recommendations for improving living conditions for children at these facilities. Last week (July 30th, 2014), HEAL spoke with a whistleblower staff who is joining other whistleblower staff in exposing the conditions at a facility operating in the Gulf Coast area. The whistleblower with whom we spoke said the condition of the program, facility, and enrolled children was worse than Guantanamo Bay. And, based on our own experiences and research, we agree.
Teen Challenge requires its enrollees to sign "civil rights waivers". (See: http://www.teenchallengemontereybay.org/pdf/intake_packet.pdf) That is current information confirmed on August 3rd, 2014. This is one of many tools used to manipulate and oppress those who innocently seek help from those who do not have human rights and compassion at the foundation of their enterprises.
"The rise of child labor in the United States began in the late 1700s and early 1800s. When the Industrial Revolution started, many families had to find someone to work or they wouldn't survive. When European immigrants came they weren't strangers to hard work. When they came they brought opinions or values that said that children should work. That's when children really started working. Many families moved from rural areas to cities newly industrialized. When it all started it went widespread and no one became concerned when the children didn't even get a modest education...
...With the knowledge that children worked in factories, mines, and other jobs lets talk about their wages and hours. A normal day for these abused children was anywhere from 12 to 19 hours a day. Most kids don't even go to school for 7 hours. An average day of work for adults is around 10 hours. These little children work 6 days a week, all year long. Kids today only go to school for 5 days. Then the extremely low wages were only a fraction of what adults got, if they got pay at all. They even tried to justify giving orphans nothing by saying that they provided clothing, shelter, and food. These "necessities" were never given to the orphans. All the time children were exhausted and hungry after these long hours.." (Source: http://www.kawvalley.k12.ks.us/schools/rjh/marneyg/05_history-projects/05_amack_childlabor.htm)
Children were denied education and forced to labor with no compensation. This condition continues today throughout the US and around the world. While the 18th century claims improvements for child welfare over the 17th century and each century claims to have improved these inhuman institutions, the reality is things really haven't changed that much.
New paint, indoor plumbing (for most, but, not all institutionalized youth in 2014), and deceptive marketing practices do not equate to more humane "treatment" facilities. In many states, these facilities operate with no oversight and the same exploitation and abuse covered in this series continue through the United States and around the world.
As this series of articles continues, the focus will remain on institutional child abuse, labor exploitation, poverty, slavery, indentured servitude, injustice, and effective movements and moments that nurture and accelerate progress. Please come back for more.