#191 Discussion about the book Women Unsilenced: Our Refusal To Let Torturer-Traffickers Win

June 26, 2023 FiLiA Episode 191
#191 Discussion about the book Women Unsilenced: Our Refusal To Let Torturer-Traffickers Win
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#191 Discussion about the book Women Unsilenced: Our Refusal To Let Torturer-Traffickers Win
Jun 26, 2023 Episode 191

Lisa-Marie Taylor and Yagmur Uygarkizi interview authors Jeanne Sarson and Linda MacDonald about their best-selling book, Women Unsilenced Our Refusal To Let Torturer-Traffickers Win.

This episode welcomes Jeanette Westbrook and Elizabeth Gordon, who both survived family and non-family-based non-State torture (NST) crimes, and join authors Jeanne and Linda to explain the vitalness of insisting on having the language of non-State torture (NST) declared as torture crimes and not assault crimes.

They insist that women not be pathologized for surviving such atrocities. The interview is published in connection with June 26, the UN International Day to Support Survivors of Torture - which must include the NST of women and girls globally.

The episode was recorded in 2022, and, at times in the recording, there were technical challenges as the women chatted from an office in Canada, a cafe in France and a service station in England!
Song credits:
We Can Hear Your Voices Now
Lyrics, Music and Sung by Jeanette Westbrook. Produced, Engineered and Recorded by Andrew Westbrook

Unsilenced (Acoustic), by Ryan & Cribb 
by Bob Ryan and Peter Cribb

Buy the book/audio book on amazon.

Show Notes Transcript

Lisa-Marie Taylor and Yagmur Uygarkizi interview authors Jeanne Sarson and Linda MacDonald about their best-selling book, Women Unsilenced Our Refusal To Let Torturer-Traffickers Win.

This episode welcomes Jeanette Westbrook and Elizabeth Gordon, who both survived family and non-family-based non-State torture (NST) crimes, and join authors Jeanne and Linda to explain the vitalness of insisting on having the language of non-State torture (NST) declared as torture crimes and not assault crimes.

They insist that women not be pathologized for surviving such atrocities. The interview is published in connection with June 26, the UN International Day to Support Survivors of Torture - which must include the NST of women and girls globally.

The episode was recorded in 2022, and, at times in the recording, there were technical challenges as the women chatted from an office in Canada, a cafe in France and a service station in England!
Song credits:
We Can Hear Your Voices Now
Lyrics, Music and Sung by Jeanette Westbrook. Produced, Engineered and Recorded by Andrew Westbrook

Unsilenced (Acoustic), by Ryan & Cribb 
by Bob Ryan and Peter Cribb

Buy the book/audio book on amazon.


Women Unsilenced 

Discussion about the book Women Unsilenced 

Our refusal to let torturer traffickers win.

 Lisa-Marie - So welcome everybody. This is what we call a typical feminist meeting, the woman who's introducing it is stuck on a train, but she'll be with us in five minutes. One computer wasn't working, but Jeanne has legged it over to Linda's, so it's all going well. 

What we're going to do is start off with this fantastic song that maybe Jeanne and Linda want to introduce, and then Yagmur should be with us and we'll start the discussions.

Linda: This is We Can Hear Your Voices Now, and it was written and is sung by Jeanette Westbrook with accompaniment and technical support by her husband Andrew. And Jeanette is a survivor, a woman who survived non-state torture, and we've known her for since 2003. Jeanette wrote this song for our book, Women Unsilenced.

Enjoy it.

Silence was never golden. 

It only hides the light. 

Women now raise their voices. 

A river of voices. 

Hear their might. 

We can hear your voices now.

They are written on the pages of time 

Women unsilenced,


Is painful. 

A voice that is never seen, 

but your eyes are open your voice and silence hear.

We can hear your voices now, 

They are written on the pages of time,

Women unsilenced

Silence is never golden.

 It only hides the light. 

Women now raise their voices. 

A river of voices here their might.

We can hear your voices now

Yes, we can hear your voices. 

They are written on the pages of time

Women Unsilenced

Lisa-Marie:  So thank you very much for that and welcome everybody. This is, as I said at the beginning, a typical feminist zoom call. I've ended up in a service station. The woman who is doing the interviewing has also ended up on a train, because there was a car accident, she wasn't involved and Jeanne's computer didn't work, so she rushed over to Linda’s.

So we're all here. We're all present and correct. Welcome. I am Lisa-Marie and I am the CEO of FiLiA and it was life changing for us to meet women involved in non-state torture, in challenging non-state torturing and bringing it to the attention of those in power. We'd never heard of it.

Through Linda, Jeanne and Elizabeth, they brought it to FiLiA, a women's rights organization and said, this is what non-state torture is. This is what we're doing about it. And hopefully what's going to happen during the next hour is you're going to learn a bit about the context into which Jeanne and Linda started their work, a bit about what they're doing, they've done, what they've achieved, they've achieved great things, and what they're planning for the future, and how you can all help.

So what I'm going to do is start off with a question for Linda and Jeanne to answer Yagmur, who is the official interviewer, will turn up as soon as she can and we'll just make it, because that's what women do. Women make magic happen. So my question to set the scene, Linda and Jeanne is: When I met you and you'd been working on this, and Elizabeth too, Elizabeth also was instrumental in bringing this topic to FiLiA and I can see you on the line, Elizabeth. So talk a bit about the context into which you founded your work, what was there? Was anything there when you came into the world and said, we need to do something about this? 

Jeanne: Well, Linda and I, back in 1993, we both grew up in family violence and we thought, well, in our community, it just seemed that any woman who was victimized, they were pathologised. So we decided we would start a private practice one night a week because we were public health nurses and working in public health, and bring a perspective that violence against women and girls is a violation of their human rights. It's a crime. There's nothing wrong with the women. It's a society and patriarchy and the misogyny that creates the atmosphere that pathologizes women.

 So then six months into our practice, I got a call one night and it was about 11 at night, and I had this urge that I should answer the phone. We had company and I just excused myself and I went and picked up the phone and there was a woman at the other end who said she was going to commit suicide in X number of days.

I had no idea who she was or what the issues were. And we kind of had a relational battle for about an hour and she agreed that she would meet us the next day. So the next day I talked to Linda and said, this is what happened last night. And the woman said she'd call again tonight. So I waited and it was late at night again when she called and said she was kind of angry because she had thought if she called late at night, nobody would answer.

And of course I answered and she was a bit peeved off because of course it disrupted her plan. She thought it was her plan. In the end, we realised it was the perpetrator's plan of what we call conditioned suicidality. That from the time she was little, she was, if you will, conditioned to die by suicide if she ever told so a form of femicide.

That's how it started. Ground zero. Linda can go from ground zero.

Linda:  So as we listened to her story, we really learned that we, we invited anyone who had end endured any kind of violence as children or adults, but we'd never really heard a story like hers before and realized fairly quickly, like into the second session, she herself called it torture. That indeed it was torture, torture by her parents and her parents' friends and her extended family, that she was tortured and traffic from the time she was tiny, a little baby. 

It really reshaped our sense of what family was. We had no idea. Once we realized that she was tortured, we thought, well, we do some provincial research because we're from Nova Scotia, Canada.

We thought we'd reach out word of mouth in our own province and find if there had been any other women who'd endured the same form of torture. And, and other women came forward and shared almost the exact same kind of stories that she had. 

So then we realized that this was not just a, you know what they call it an aberration. This was a common practice of families. 

So we branched out and we started a website and we went to Connecticut and spoke to a group of survivors in Connecticut who validated all of the research, the grassroots science research that we developed, the models that we have in our book.

And we started hearing from women all around the world from the United States and the UK and all through Europe and Australia, New Zealand. And then now it's branched out to Africa and Papua New Guinea and Mexico, Israel, 

So we know now that non-state torture is a global issue and we call it a patriarchal war, non-state torture war against women and girls.

And it affects millions of women all around the world if you take in acid burning and FGM and child marriage and all of the other torture practices that are participated in and against women and girls. 

So we've really branched out our framework to be very global.  

We've gotten support of the United Nations and we're members of an NGO now that have a working group on non-state torture. And it's the goal of the working group that we have a declaration, a UN United Nations declaration on non-state torture that eventually will be supported by the General Assembly of the United Nations. So that's what two women can do if you get really determined. 

Lisa-Marie: Take us through the journey. So then you realized this was happening, you realize that it disproportionately affected women. So we say it is a feminist issue. You've spoken at FiLiA before. We've got some podcasts and blogs written by you and interviews with you on the FiLiA website because we realized this was a feminist issue.

Could you talk a little bit more about that, about the disproportionate way that this impacts on girls and women? 

Jeanne: For me it was really a shock. I'd have to say, Lisa-Marie, I remember way back in 1993, I said to Linda, when we realized what we were dealing with, that the form of violence that women are subjected to, in this case, torture, had never been recognized globally and even in our country. And it was shocking. 

It was shocking to think, okay, here we live in Canada and torture's happening right down the street, and they're not even recognizing it. And you go to the UN and we found out that really, even at the UN level, over time, over many years, we found out that when, for example, CEDAW was created, they thought that violence against women and girls was not a human rights issue. A private matter. And the lawyers there thought it was maybe a legal issue, but not a human right issue. 

And then when the UN Convention against Torture was created in the eighties, we found out that women weren't even thought about. When we asked the question, did you ever think about women? one of the experts who was connected to that said, no, never gave it a thought. 

So that's where it was for us when we started, we really were at ground zero. And we started researching and thinking, can we find anything anywhere about how do you help support woman to heal? And we couldn't find anything.

So, we said to Sarah, that's the name she chose, the first woman that came. And said, well, we can't find anything anywhere. We'll do our best. What we could promise was to do no harm. 

So that's how it started. So it was really one step forward and sometimes two steps back, two steps forward, one step back.

And we just all worked our butts off, just like feminists all over the world have to do, because there's nobody out there embracing anyone to do this work. You have to decide to put your feet on the ground and just go forward. And actually, we had a nursing association back there back then. They were complaining about us, that we didn't know what we were doing or were, we were toxically involved, we were caring too much, you know, that was the framework we had. 

So in the book we write about going underground. Very quickly we stopped talking about the care that we had to deliver, always knowing that Sarah was progressing. We were always evaluating just like you do, if you're sick, are you getting better?

So we knew she was improving but we couldn't say anything because the environment that we were in in the nineties just would not have been open. And the other issue was, if we were attacked, then Sarah might get attacked. And then we were always fearful of the issue of dying by suicide, that until Sarah could heal that need to end the misery, that was always an issue.

 So it was like talking about the weather suicidality for a long time. So those were some of the adjustments that we had to do. 

Linda: Well, Jeanne said the environment might not be supportive or whatever. It was not. It was absolutely not. There was nothing about it that was supportive.

And it's a feminist issue because of course we were labelled as crazy as well, we know what happens to women that speak the truth. We're labelled as crazy. We found out later that a lot of people legitimately thought we were mentally ill because we were talking about parents that torture and traffic their children in the nineties. They really did, and they admitted it and admitted they were wrong. I was pleased that they were honest about it, but I know there's lots of, probably still do think we're crazy, but that doesn't bother me. But it is a feminist issue for that reason. And we were deliberately silenced by many, many people.

So we just kept at it. You know, because that's what you do when you're, driven to speak the truth, even the Committee Against Torture people say, well, the Committee Against Torture doesn't apply to women and girls. Well, it does. This is the International Day to Support Victims of Torture.

It was a great day to choose June 26th every year. And we're here to say that women and girls are tortured. Indeed, they're tortured and they're tortured in state torture, and they're also tortured in non-state torture, which is the kind of torture that we're talking about, by families, by traffickers, by pimps and Johns and in pornography.

We're abolitionists as well, and we talk about the violence in prostitution, and it's ludicrous to think that women and girls aren't tortured. It's like the greatest taboo in history. We look at all the ways that women and girls have been tortured. Our country of Canada wants it called assault or aggravated assault, and that's what happens.

The states or the governments want to minimize what women and girls have endured to an assault. Whereas if the same actions happen to men, if you're electric shocked, or if you're water boarded, or if you're drugged, or if you're conditioned to suicide by femicide or not with men, it would be conditioned to suicide. They would call that torture if it happens to men. Governments want to call it assault or aggravated assault. And that that is just discriminatory. And that's why women and girls fit into the committee against torture because there's a category for discrimination, anyone who is enduring discrimination.

That's exactly what's happening. And that's why we wrote the book to break down that discrimination, to expose it to show ways that we helped women heal. And hopefully women survivors can read it and validate for themselves that they have a human right not to be tortured. And for caregivers who anyone in frontline or anywhere in healthcare or in the justice system or police or whoever read it, will start thinking of what happens to women and girls differently and understand that we have to name it as accurately just like any other crime. It's torture. It's not aggravated assault or confinement. It's torture. 

Lisa-Marie: Thank you. And you said there was resistance at the beginning because there's just resistance to highlighting violence against women and girls. Full stop. 

And you said to me in a conversation last week, there has been a resistance to the book. Do you want to talk a little bit more about that? Because that's come from a different angle, but that's part of the story, isn't it? So where's the resistance come from and why? And how are you pushing through that?

Linda: Well, people don't usually tell us directly. How we find this out is other people that are selling the book, friends that have it in their shops, or people that are talking to someone that's talking about the book. And even feminists will say this, that they know they should read it, but they don't really want to because they're afraid of the stories. They're afraid of the truth of it. 

So that's the hard-core reality that we're dealing with, is that people don't want to hear the stories. And so we just keep speaking and try to branch out to groups that will listen and we're having different promotional conversations all the time. If you know Jeanne and I, we just never give up.

I think we drive some people crazy because they see us as a one issue. Like we're a group with one issue. Well, of course we only have one issue because who else is pushing this? We don't see a lot of other people pushing it. So you have to be a one issue group or campaign until it becomes a global issue.

So yeah, we're promoting it. And thank you for being supportive, FiLiA. This is another way to do that. 

Jeanne: I think feminism is always a one issue, with many, many branches because, even you just say, I, I have a feminist perspective, and you're like enemy number one in society, you know?

It's that duality, you know, talking about something that nobody wants to really admit happens and yet saying, well, it's a feminist issue. And of course, patriarchy doesn't like feminism either. So you have to kind of walk the line and ignore what patriarchy and misogyny do. 

 Also, when we submitted the book, we did get positive feedback from the publishers, that it was compelling, but they didn't want to deal with the issue.

So we self-published, we were in that position that we decided, okay, we'll go into debt and self-publish and there was an emotional component to that. And the fact that way back when Sarah first came and we realized we were dealing with torture, I said to Linda, we were in McDonald's at that time. I said, I'm worried that we might die with the story. So the book, every time I look at it, and every time I pick it up, I realize that I'm not dying with the story. So that's really important to me emotionally, because I just feel that we've put a lot of our heart and soul into the book, and for those who want to read it, I'm hoping that their journey is not as painful as the one that Linda and I and Sarah of course first went through, and other women who have joined us in the book who have gone through such pain of silencing that society was not listening, did not believe, denied, pathologized and as a consequence, women suffered gravely for a long, long time.

So I'm hoping Unsilenced does something about that. 

Linda: We wrote it in a positive framework. We don't think that it's gore and it's not horror. You know, it's the reality of women's lives and it we're solution focused with a lots of hope. So I think anyone that reads it will feel, hopefully, that there's hope in the world instead of it being a, a story of despair eventually this will break. It'll just become an everyday reality. 

NST will be just an acronym, just like FGM or any other acronym. It'll be just considered everyday knowledge and that will happen. I know it.

Lisa-Marie: I’m going to hand over to Yagmur but first: So Linda and Jeanne, why did you take the tack you took, you decided to go for the United Nations to get them to acknowledge a name non-state torture. Can you tell us a bit about why you chose that route and what success you had in that regard? And then from now on, I'm going leave it to Yagmur to carry on the rest of the meeting. 

Jeanne: Well, really, what happened is that we realized in Canada that they weren't open to hearing us. That was way back in 2008 actually.

We had gone to CEDAW around the issues and our country just said, you know, that's a soft law and we don't have to pay any attention to it. And we started going to the UN in 2004 though, But I mean, as far as the UN to do something specifically about naming non-state torture, we had many presentations in New York at the UN, parallel events and actually Jeanette and Elizabeth participated in those many times over.

But around recognizing it as a human right, our country blocked us and then we went to the Committee Against Torture in 2012 and got a lot of support and Canada came back and said, it's soft law, even though the Committee recommended that Canada should change its law, the lawyers said, we don't have to do it at Soft Law.

Then we went back in 2018/19 and the Special Rapporteur there of the Committee Against Torture, I feel, he pretty well kicked us out and said we didn't belong. So we've had those extremes even at a global level. But like Linda said, we've never given up and now we find ourselves in Vienna at the UN which focuses on crime and they seem to be understanding more that torture is a crime and the trafficking that happened that we're talking about, the informal networks, you can't exploit somebody to others. And now there's a network out there. You have to have connections with others who are the same framework. So it seems like they're understanding the issues differently.

So we are getting support there, like Linda said earlier to see if we can get a declaration that acknowledges globally, that creates global awareness, that torture of women and girls by the millions are happening every day on this planet. And that would be a global success. And then we would hope that that would put pressure on countries all around the world whose laws have ignored the fact that torture by private individuals, which is where the war that women often are caught in, will be focused enough to eliminate.

Linda:  Human rights is the foundation of our practice. When we started in 1993, we started with the fact that violence against women and girls is a human rights violation because that's the way we saw it in our lives. And that we were never mentally ill as children to, to speak out against the violence that we endured. It was a crime of course, but it was also a human rights violation.

And as young children, we knew about our rights. We just knew we had human rights as little girls. And so that's how we grew up. And that's how I thought. I really did think that's how people thought about violence against women in the home. And I've come to realize that it's extremely pathologized. So when we talk about it's a human rights violation for women, they tell us it's so liberating.

They never thought of it that way. Some women have told us that they've been in counselling 30 years and never even realized they were enduring a crime. I mean, that's a crime in itself. So that's another reason why we went to the United Nations because it’s the foundation of our work.

It's a whole different paradigm than the mental illness pathology box that all the violence that women and girls and endures are put into. And it's a form of liberation.

Yagmur: It's really good that Lisa-Marie asked this question because I cannot even stress how much your book changed, not just my point of view of the world, but it really changed my entire life. 

To me, reading your book, which I read as a political philosopher, because this is my training and this is how I see the world so reading your book really kind of destroyed my own field, the field of politics more generally. And it became completely meaningless to me. And what made it so meaningless, thanks to you is because it's built, politics is built on this distinction between state and non-state. So the consequences of this are huge, tremendous for women and very concrete.

It's not just a language game. 

What torture is done to men, it's called to torture, but not to women. And the other thing that is interesting is that this definition of torture from a political point of view, looks at the aggressor and really at the status of the aggressor. So when the perpetrator is protected. Let, let's put it this way, with the status of the state, so he endorses, he represents the state in other words, it becomes torture. But when he doesn't, he's not a representative of the state in any way, he becomes a mere man. And in this case, it's not torture. So very simply, if a policeman comes home and removes his uniform and starts torturing his wife or his daughter, it's no longer torture.

So because of this political foundation, you had to come up with this expression, non-state torture, to make sure that what happened to women and girls was also called a torture and seen this way. 

So my question to you is: Why did you go down this route instead of expanding the definition of torture, to make sure that torture included was not defined by the status of the perpetrator by whether or not he represented this state? I found your choice quite interesting. 

Jeanne: The reason is because there were no human right instruments that recognized the torture of women that happened in the private sphere because, like CEDAW didn't include it, the Convention Against Torture didn't see it as an issue.

So it was like non-existent. I think we were like 15 years ahead of how society was evolving. So we had to find, like when you put a seed in the ground and you water it and you hope that it grows. We had to find some place to root the beginning of the reality that women and girls in their private lives are tortured day in and day out. And that it could be coded as a traditional practice, if you will, like FGM or could be coded as prostitution and sexualized as sex work, if you will. There were many, many ways.

I'll give you this example too, in Canada. I emailed Stats Canada and said to them: how do you register torture that happens privately? how do you gather that data? I knew they couldn't because of course there's no law, but I was curious about how they were going to answer it. So they came back and said, well, it's normal torture. In other words, they sexualized it so it disappears. When you sexualize torture, it becomes BDSM, maybe or something else. It becomes prostitution and the acts that happened in prostitution, and that's sexualized. So we had to find a way to put the seed in to open the discussion. 

The reason I say we were so far ahead, this happened to us in 1993. It was 2008, which is like 15 years before the Committee Against Torture, did their general comment number eight, that they said, okay, we agree that torture by non-state actors has to be acknowledged.

So that was kind of the first step in, at a global level where a human right treaty was starting to open up to the reality that women and girls were tortured. 

So that's how we broke it up. I mean, torture should just be torture all around the world, regardless of who the perpetrator is, that's what should make sense that any person that tortures is held to account. 

Like in Canada, our law says you can only be held accountable if you're a policeman or a military person or a government official. Well, that means probably nobody in our country will ever be charged.

Linda: I think that Jeanne and I have expanded the definition of torture and we've expanded it by naming another section of torture that's been invisible.

And one of the key reasons why we did it was because of our own law in Canada, section 269.1 defines state torture. They've named it as state torture. So that really kept us out of it, unless we put another phrase in there, non-state torture. And that's how we took it to our government.

They understood what we meant. They just didn't agree with it. If we said torture, everyone would defer to State because that's where patriarchy is, that's where people's minds go. They go to State. So if we talk about the torture of women and girls, they think of institutions or embassies or the police, they go right away to State.

So we had to find a word that would expand the definition of torture and help people's minds open up to a different form of torture that women and girls endure in the family. We can't say private: we can't say non-political because those words just don't fit enough.

Amnesty International talked about non-state actors. So we just coined the phrase non-state torture. And in our opinion, we have expanded the definition of torture.

 I see there's a question in the chat too from someone asking about psychological torture and what kind of spousal abuse should count as torture.

We talk a lot about psychological torture. The psychological torture is often the most harmful because it stays with you longer than the physical, as we know, in in emotional abuse and physical abuse and psychological abuse, well, it's the same for the psychological torture.

So it's constant lies, raping with electric shocking and telling a person lies and that they're evil or whatever kind of cruel words that they want to say. And that that really transforms a person's mind, especially if they're only a little girl. So the psychological torture is a lot, we have to work really hard to undo the psychological torture. It's ever present, always present in torture. It's never just physical or sexualized or verbal. There's a psychological component to it, always. 

Jeanne: I give you a concrete example. Sarah, as the first woman who came, was born into a family that tortured and trafficked and exploited her.

But in 2000 Linda was the home care coordinator of a woman that needed home care. Her name was Lynn. She has since died, but she was very angry. And we have a published article about it as a, she was called a difficult client because she was angry and fighting with the care providers. And Linda went in one day and asked her why she was so angry. So she disclosed that for four and a half years, her husband had groomed her and married her. And then all this time that informal network came up in the fact that he had been planning with three of his male friends in another province of Canada, how to hold her captive, torture and traffic her, and he convinced her that she was a prostitute. That's a psychological. When we met her and started helping her heal, she disbelieved because the way she was treated and how they told her that she was a prostitute, she was prostituted out and that's all she was good for. And then she went to the priest because nobody would listen to her. And that's what he told her, that she was a prostitute and she should go back.

So that's the psychological, there's a psychological that happens directly from the perpetrators.

There's a big issue in society that if we don't stand up and fight against the stigmatization, then society does the same thing. It devalues women who have been vulnerable and have been harmed. And that creates a social psychological victimization because we should be free to tell our stories in a way that reflects the truth of what we survived.

But when society doesn't allow that, that's a huge stigmatization in a huge psychological victimization. And for Linda and I, and we talk about this in the book, you know, there's one thing to work together, like Linda and I worked together because it was such hard work, but we went outdoors too. Worked outdoors because took the women with us because when you're entrapped in captivity, that's a very small world. 

So you have to learn that the world is bigger than that. But if you work hard together. But then if a woman goes out into society and the society is not open and caring and willing to hear her, that psychological victimization is huge.

So we do have to call it, we do have to call it the misogyny and the patriarchal, victimization that goes on. We can't just leave it one-on-one to a small group of women. 

Linda: Okay. I see that you're asking what definition works for us internationally. Well, it's the United Nations definition. That's the definition we use. And we chose that very early because we knew that that was a strong foundation and that people couldn't discredit the United Nations definition. So that's the definition we use. And the only difference is in, in our case, is that the perpetrators are not state. They're non-state, which would be, like I mentioned before, family, traffickers, pimps, buyers, pornographers. So that's the definition that we use. It's cruel and unusual treatment. And it embodies a sense of powerlessness, an extreme sense of powerlessness, which of course there is in non-state torture.

Yagmur:  I have some really interesting comments in the chat. For example, Alina adds that Adrienne Rich wrote about the main tools of patriarchy such as silencing, shaming, distressing, disconnecting, minimizing, trivializing, ridiculeising and rationalizing, and then she's adding that. You, both of you have added pathologizing and sexualizing.

That's a really good observation, especially the one, pathologizing because pathology, the disease is in a way incontrollable, it obscures power relationships. You no longer have the relationship between victim and perpetrator. It's just like a pathology is sort of something that just happens to you. You just happen to be sick and nobody's guilty of anything. 

This reminds me of something else that I wanted to discuss with you, and it's this thing about psychological torture. I think this idea of psychological torture goes back to the constant distinction between mind and body, as if the brain wasn't in the body as a feelings were not in the body.

And that's something that's really interesting and emphasized in your book. It's the psychological aspect, the psychological phenomena, the responses, the psychological responses, the traumatic responses, which you are right to call responses and not disorders, right? Because there's this expression of post-traumatic stress disorder, and you're absolutely right. Those are responses. 

You argue in the book that those responses are healthy in a way. They're defence mechanisms, and you remind us of the issue, that trauma is always embodied. You talk a lot about the somatic memory, so what stays in the body, so again, debunking, just like you had debunked the states versus non-state distinction, you're debunking this mind body distinction.

I don't know if you want to add something to that, otherwise I have a a question for you, which is:  How much did you have to censor yourselves in the book? So how much self-censorship did you have to do? 

Linda: I don't think I had any self-censors in the book of what I said. I couldn't say everything in the book.

I would like to have said a lot, but I'm not in the habit of censoring myself. That's why we started our campaign and don't take money from anyone because no one owns my tongue.  I'm not going to die silent or censored. I might have not said some things about other people that I don't want to upset, but about me personally, I don't censor myself and too bad of people don't like it.

I've been watching Martha Mitchell, the woman that was so pathologized and discredited during Watergate, and I can really identify with her, you know, the poor woman back in the seventies, the way she was treated, it's horrendous. 

So, women that talk, they’re thought of as big mouths and mouthy, and I've been called all those things all my life since I was tiny. So, no, I don't censor myself. 

Jeanne: Since I'm the writer, I have to say that the book is half of what I wrote. I guess that's the censorship in the fact that when it came down to what we were going to publish, there's a whole other story out there, and Linda and I talk about it quite a bit.

About how for women especially, they silence us, really, to quiet us down to harm us. To harm us, to try to ruin our lives, destroy our lives. So that all that got out of this book because it was just too long of a book and we were thinking too, too many complex issues, but we're not censored because if we have the energy, we're going to write this in, because we think we owe it to other women, who might run across the perpetrators. 

Some of the perpetrators were women we knew, women that we worked with, women who we sat at a table with. We didn't ask who the perpetrators were. But when women tell their stories, that's part of the story. So there is some censorship in that, even in writing the second book, we're going to have to be careful how we do that because of course.

SLAPP suits and malicious complaints are one of the tools that perpetrators use regardless of whether it's domestic violence, if you will, whether it's intimate partner violence or whether it's torture. So there is some limitation there about how we can legally say things, but it's really important to be shared because how will we understand the fight, what you're up against if women don't speak their truth?

And that's part of what we would like to say because we had two malicious complaints that we had to fight and they were from women who identified as perpetrators of torture and trafficking. So because we were licensed as professional nurses, if they had won, we would've lost our license and lost our livelihood.

So it's quite a serious process to understand perpetrators, to understand their MO (Modus Operandi). And the way we got around some of it in the book is in, in sharing the women's stories, we ended up bracketing. This is an MO, this is their MO and this is the purpose of it. Because what we're finding is that people aren't understanding the MO of the perpetrator. So we broke it down. 

That was kind of one way we uncensored ourselves as much as we could. 

Linda: And I'm just wondering, since we only have a two minutes left, if maybe Jeanette or Elizabeth would like to say anything themselves to kind of open it up the floor. That's part of our process as much as we can, about sharing space with women who have endured non-state torture.

Jeanne and I are open to share anything you'd like to say. 

Jeanette -Well, hi there. Hi Jeanne and Linda and hi, everyone out there participating. When I first met Jeanne and Linda we were all on a bus going to a conference in Connecticut, in in the United States. And, I was eyeing them with suspicion, you know, who are these people? with funny accents. They're Canadians. And it did not take me very long to understand that they were speaking the language that was in here. I had already been through prosecuting one of my perpetrators in 1992, but that still wasn't enough. People didn't use the language that encompassed my experiences.

So the only language I could find, the only material that even came close to what I experienced was language describing the Holocaust, the tortures inherent in genocide in the Holocaust. So, on down the line, my first UN presentation with Linda was in 2004. And then from there on we had many presentations together, and I had many presentations with others, 30 presentations at the United Nations.

And you know, that's a lot of work and the work that Jeanne and Linda have done is just tremendous. But we still have a problem with those three words, incest, prostitution and non-state torture. With incest we very seldom even talk about that. It's talked about in Women Unsilenced.

 Prostitution. Now we have lots of sectors that don't even agree with prostitution, that reformulate it into the word ‘sex work’ so they don't have to say the word prostitution. Then when it comes to torture, that's where we are now making that bridge because we already know, if you look on page 286 in Women Unsilenced, you have all of the different types of torture, category one, two, and three. And they're naming the global categories of non-state torture. They've always been there, they've existed through history, but where we are now is actually having the language and describing the action of non-state torture. If we do that, if we grasp that, we are going to save untold lives, we are going to give a platform for survivors worldwide to be able to speak their realities.

Up until this point, we really haven't had that platform to describe it. So when I met Jeanne and Linda, I was already a badass. Okay. But joining with these two women made such a difference in my life because while I was talking about it, I still didn't have the correct language to use. And I'm so thankful for that.

But we must continue this fight to globalize this because there are so many women, myself and I, I won't speak for Elizabeth. She'll do that herself in a moment when I shut up here is that, you know, there's so many women that have not survived this. They're dead. We have the opportunity to give them a voice even though they're gone, that they did not suffer without someone acknowledging the truth of the circumstances of their death.

Thank you all for being here today and listening, please, please, please, I would think that everyone on here has this book, you should read it because I tell you what, when I read it, the caring they had for Sarah is the same caring they had for me and for any other woman that has experienced non-state torture.

Elizabeth: I first met Jeanne and Linda in 2009, I didn’t have words for what I'd survived, but I knew that it was torture. I knew it was different to abuse and it was quite quickly after that that I looked at the government's action plan for violence against women and girls in 2010. And I looked all the way through the document and I couldn't see the word torture.

And that's when I realized that actually women can't talk about torture unless the words are there, unless it's named. So, I took a flight a year or two later, 2011, up to Newcastle, to a meeting of CEDAW that the Women's Resource Centre was holding, and we managed to put in with Jeanne and Linda supporting me, a recommendation about non-state torture.

And then from then on I've started to push with making posters and art and taking that to the UN when I've had the opportunity. So it has been very positive. I was looking at my question in the chat about Have you seen a positive effect on women being able to name their experiences of torture and Yes, absolutely.

I know what happened to me and I can name it and I know who done it and what they did. And that's justice. 

Thank you for all being here. Yeah, I know we're ready to close, Wendy. So we, we have a final song and it was written by two men, but we want you to hear it because men have to be part of the battle and these men are connected to women who have been tortured in non-state torture and also read our book and said that our book has challenged their misogyny. So it's a beautiful song. I hope you enjoy it. And thank you so much for being here and have a wonderful rest of the day.


Asked how you are doing

You say you’re doing fine

That's what you were forced to say

in another place and time

you were just a little girl

People hurt you bad

People who were humans

Uncles, aunties and dads

Trafficked and tortured

By the family and their friends

You did everything you could.

Tried so hard to make it all end

May you never be forsaken again

Rise up trustworthy men. 

Rise up and walk beside your sisters. 

Rise up. Rise up

no exploitation. 

Rise up in every nation

After all these years

Can't believe it's you. 

It's good to see you laughing

And the light in your eyes too

I need to ask how you’re doing

I see you’re doing fine

You were such a source of strength

To the women down the line

You did everything you could

Fought so hard

To transcend

You did everything you could

May you never be forsaken again.