There have been a litany of scathing reports, fuming missives, and social media rages since the release of the U.S. Senate Torture Report this week. If you want to read it in all its horrific detail, you can do so here.
But there is one component that – especially now, when sexual assault and rape culture is a prominent subject of public discourse – is truly nauseating. Under the authority of the United States government, CIA agents used anal penetration as a method of force feeding prisoners.
Attorney and Cornell Law Professor Michael C. Dorf explains it well:
Rectal feeding was originally developed as a means of providing nutrition for people who could not eat regularly–either because they were incapable of doing so or refused to do so–but was largely replaced in medicine once intravenous drips and other methods became reliable. The CIA used rectal feeding and hydration on Khan and other prisoners who were engaging in hunger strikes.
There is no really good method for providing unwanted food and water to a hunger striker. An IV can be difficult to administer to a struggling prisoner and takes a long time. As I noted in a Verdict column last year, it is not even clear that it is legal to force-feed prisoners via a nasogastric tube. But at least there’s a plausible medical argument for using an IV and/or nasogastric tube if one has decided that forced feeding is appropriate. By contrast, there was no medical reason why the CIA chose rectal feeding and hydration for its prisoners. Instead, the Report concludes, the method was chosen as a means of exercising total control over prisoners.
The CIA used rectal feeding and rectal hydration–rather than some less instrusive method of forced feeding or no forced feeding at all–specifically for the purpose of inflicting pain and humiliation on the prisoners. Put more starkly, in addition to threatening to rape the mothers of some of its prisoners, the CIA used rectal feeding and rectal hydration to anally rape prisoners.
For those still confused, let’s break this down simply:
- CIA agents forcibly engaged in anal penetration of non-consenting human beings. This was rape.
- CIA agents did so even though it was not medically necessary. This was rape.
- CIA agents did so even though there were more humane methods of forcible feeding, however questionable the practice in general may be. This was rape.
- The torture report revealed that victims of these tactics suffered from, “chronic hemorrhoids, an anal fissure and symptomatic rectal prolapse.” These, incidentally, are common symptoms of anal rape. This was rape.
- The torture report found that the tactic was used as a means of exerting “total control” over the prisoners. This was about power. This was rape.
- CIA agents engaged in this behavior under the direction and with the approval of our government. THIS WAS STATE SANCTIONED RAPE.
And we wonder why the state so rarely brings rape cases to trial. We wonder why so many people bend over backwards to discredit the stories of survivors. We wonder why police officers ask irrelevant questions like, “What were you wearing?” We wonder why survivors so rarely come forward. We wonder why survivors are blamed for not being safer or better defending themselves. We wonder why college campuses have determined that expulsion is an appropriate punishment for rape in the rare cases where they find for the survivor. We wonder why those who speak out against rape culture are targeted with rape threats.
Maybe it’s because we live in a country where our government says rape is just necessary sometimes.