Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only shake you down once a year, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep the site afloat, and our growing audience, well over TWO million unique viewers a month, eats up a lot of bandwidth — and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

State Rape

by WILLIAM SHEPPARD

When the basic premise of the drug war is that we do not own our own bodies, the recurring theme of police sexual assault in the media over the last several months seem less like freak occurrence and more like an expected, perhaps its inevitable outcome. Last year there was the police rape of a New Mexico man and another very similar incident in El Paso, In both cases, the victims were held under suspicion of carrying drugs inside their bodies, and subjected to numerous intense and invasive violations as successive tests turned up negative. These cases are gruesome, graphic and brutal examples of the kind of power the state has granted itself over us.

It does not end with just these incidents; strip searches are routine at airports. If we wish to travel via air, then we must grant the state permission to invade our privacy and our bodies. Probably the most explicit form of state rape – that is some kind of sexual assault or violation undertaken by a representative, or someone with authority granted by the state – is prison rape. What gives a government official this power? If we consider the specific case of the man in New Mexico, it is unlikely that two men on the street would have been able to apprehend him and conduct these acts without him protesting, resisting, trying to get away or, at the very least, gaining support from bystanders.

Given the position of authority granted to these men, however, means that physical resistance isn’t even a reasonable response. The presence of law enforcement in this man’s ordeal provided the implicit threat of an infinitely scalable escalation of violence. Had he attempted to stop one of the doctors from violating him, at least one officer would have gotten involved to subdue him; were he successful in subduing one cop, it is likely that a second cop would have used lethal force against him; in the unlikely event that he could have stopped this, the state has near unlimited resources to stop him. He could be chased to other states, even extradited from another nation. As soon as the state is involved in a situation like this, the individual citizen has already lost. While some instances are eventually dealt with in an appropriate manner, the aforementioned prison rape by prison authorities shows that even after sexual assault takes place, the opportunity for recourse is minimal to non-existent — to the point where authorities were able to deny that such a thing was even a problem.

Recently a report by the Department of Justice, surveying nearly 2 million prisoners from federal, state, local and private prisons, found that almost half of sexual assaults in prison are perpetrated by prison staff. In cases where allegations were substantiated, less than half the offenders were prosecuted or faced jail time. This issue stems from the conflict of interest that arises when state officials are expected to be held accountable to and prosecuted by other state officials. It’s the same reason we don’t see police engaged in acts of brutality being handcuffed by their peers. Inmates attempting to report such offenses must deal with possible retaliation by the accused or their peers, who have been granted power over them by the state. As demonstrated before, their actions carry with them the implicit threat of infinitely scalable violence.

If these cases do reach court, again we have the problem of representatives of the state sympathizing with fellow agents of the justice system. This is exemplified by the recent sentencing of a police officer charged with violently anally assaulting twelve victims. The officer in question, who is by any account a serial rapist, faces only two years in prison. Four other officers were involved, reportedly assisting by holding down and even pointing guns at the victims. The accomplices face no charges at all.

Writing here about the horrors of state rape and the power dynamics involved is in no way meant to minimize the horrors of rape by private individuals against others. The difference in this situation is that the power given to the attackers is artificial. With the elimination of the organization that grants the power to strip rights from other human beings, backed by the implicit threat of infinitely scalable violence, we can at least remove this scourge from our society.

William Sheppard is a left anarchist and activist with a particular interest in online rights, privacy and encryption.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail