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What is non-State torture (NST) and what can you do about it?


I don’t often get nervous when I ask someone for something. Mainly because I hardly ever reach out. But asking some of the guest bloggers to take part has been hard, because they are all people that I admire in one way or another.

Asking today’s guest blogger to write for me was one of the hardest. I wanted to get the message of non-state torture out there and knew it could only come from one place. So, what if she said no? She didn’t …

Let me introduce you all to a hero of mine, Linda MacDonald….. take a seat …Linda is going to tell you about non-state torture and what YOU can do about it.

What is non-State torture (NST) and what can you do about it? It has been almost 26 years since Jeanne Sarson and I began supporting women who have survived non-State torture (NST), started educating for awareness about this horrendous crime and human rights violation and lobbying countries to include NST as a crime in their Criminal Codes. And yet all these years later the most common response we hear from people after we explain what NST is are the words, “I can’t believe parents and others could be so cruel.” Jeanne and I have a goal of helping to contribute to the everyday knowing that non-State torture is common – that NST will be talked about at the kitchen table, in the grocery store and on the street corner. We are a ways from that day yet! What is non-State torture?

NST is torture inflicted by the everyday person such as parents, other family members, spouses, neighbors, strangers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, human traffickers, pimps, buyers and pornographers. The forms of torture involved are exactly the same as those inflicted in State torture such as electric shocking, caging, drugging, sexualized torture including gang rape, starvation, psychological tortures and bestiality to name a few. The difference between State and non-State torture is the perpetrators in State torture are employed by the State such as police, military and embassy employees, for example, and with NST the perpetrators are persons in the private sphere as listed above. The majority of the survivors who contact Jeanne and I are women and the reality of NST that people always find most shocking is that the age of the victims begin in infancy. This means that babies, toddlers, children, teens and women all endure NST.

For a more detailed description and the 3 categories of NST that Jeanne and I have developed you can read our Fact Sheet: Torture in the Private Sphere Here One of the ways we educate about the reality of the human right violation of NST is to participate in the New York United Nations Commission on the Status of Women sessions (CSW) speaking and helping to organize panels. Jeanne and I have been attending CSW since 2004 and this year we participated in a CSW 63 panel, Violence and Torture Against Women and Girls in Trafficking and Prostitution: Educating Service Providers. The panel was a collective global gathering including Jeanette Westbrook a survivor of family based NST and human trafficking, Summer Dickerson, a survivor of NST in prostitution, Chris Stark a survivor of NST in human trafficking, Jeanne Sarson and myself speaking about our expertise in NST, Megan Walker ED of London Abused Women’s Centre (LAWC), Canada sharing how LAWC supports women who have survived NST, Yves Charpenel, President of Scelles Foundation who spoke about torture in prostitution in France and Jackie Jones a human rights lawyer from Wales speaking about NST and the law.

CSW 2019.JPG

The panel was very well attended with a packed room and excellent questions. You can view the entire 90 minute panel Here What can you do about it?

One of the questions at the end of the panel was, “What would you tell us to do to promote pressure globally about non-State torture?” The answer is simple – Listen To Survivors. This means open your mind to the reality of NST and that it is a global crime and human rights violation perpetrated by both men and women for pleasure, profit and power. Start talking about NST with your family, friends, co-workers, while shopping and while waiting for the bus. Lobby your country to develop a law against NST if there isn’t one already. Change your world view about the capacity of parents and other persons to treat women and girls with such cruelty. Say to your-Self – I believe the women and girls and I am going to begin to be part of the group who is raising awareness about non-State torture. Here are some simple talking point facts about NST to include along your journey and thanks for your help!

Linda MacDonald Human Rights Defender Persons Against Non-State Torture FiLiA podcast

Follow Out of the Shadows Here

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