[Many women] have testified that the real purpose of the electroshock was social control. Cognitive impairment or memory loss is frequently identified as the means. The rationale is: What cannot be remembered cannot be acted on.
ECT is effective in the way abuse is always effective — by inspiring fear of further violation. Additionally, a vicious cycle sets in, with ECT used to stop women from complaining about the effects of ECT. Significantly, many women have testified that when they spoke of the treatments making them worse, they were chastised and warned that continued complaints would be interpreted as illness and result in further “treatment.” Not surprisingly, women in turn reported protecting themselves by obeying. What is also telling, women psychiatric survivors who have not been shocked describe the very witnessing of shock in the institution as both traumatizing and an ever-present threat.
To date, despite the ongoing work of some feminists, the issue of electroshock has not been taken up broadly by the women’s movement. However, if we in the women’s movement were to take up this issue in a concerted way, we could make a huge difference.... It falls to us to take up this issue,... ECT constitutes state-sponsored violence against women.