Pharmaceutical Rape: an act of plunder, violent seizure or abuse; despoliation; to rob of goods by force, to seize wrongfully or by force; steal.
Pharmaceutical rape culture is a concept that examines a culture in which harm from pharmaceutical products is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about medicine and health care. It is a complex set of beliefs that encourages capitalistic, pharmaceutical domination of healthcare and supports everyday harms in medical and mental health care settings. It is a society where harm is only acknowledged as rare, yet is accepted as necessary, and inevitable. In a pharmaceutical rape culture, doctors and patients unknowingly trust what are oftentimes pseudo-scientific facts put forth by drug makers about drug safety. Both doctors and patients end up disbelieving the reality of the adverse events they see and instead believe alternate explanations for such events. A pharmaceutical rape culture condones harms caused by the industry-government-medical trade alliance because the culture produces, reproduces, and is completely saturated with “information” that supports that alliance.
Examples of behaviors commonly associated with pharmaceutical rape culture include:
Denial of widespread pharmaceutical rape: a tendency to remain oblivious in the face of evidence of harm.
Trivializing pharmaceutical rape: a response to harm by denying that real damage was done.
Medical/pharmaceutical objectification/commodifcation: an attitude about patients that is limited to placing primary value on what goods or services can be employed for reimbursement or compensation. Reducing him/her to a commodity with value being limited to financial gain.
Victim blaming says: it is your fault you were hurt because you did x, y, z. If you hadn't done x, y, z, you would not have been harmed. You went to the doctor, you asked for medication, you consented to the treatment, you kept going back to the doctor, you didn't do your homework, you should have known better, you should have listened to your body, I knew better and I didn't do those things.
OR, what you experienced was your own organic illness/disease, it was your poor diet, your lifestyle, your lack of exercise, your use of alcohol or other drugs; you are sick because of your age, your family genetics, etc.
OR, your are at fault because you are a drug addict, (even though the addiction came about through or was aided by what is considered legitimate prescribing).
The refusal to acknowledge reports: only accepting controlled clinical trials and not case studies.
COMMENTS FROM TWO SEPARATE DISCUSSIONS
An Opposing View:
“Look, the problems with violating consent are parallel and that point is all well and good, but I think it's in really bad taste to approach it like this. Rape is much more personally devastating. It trivializes rape, especially since it's a riff on an article about rape. I think it's fair to borrow terms like victim-blaming that aren't rape-specific, but to use “rape” in this analogous way seems pretty fucked up. I don't think comparing pharma harms to rape is going to do us any favors in fighting that denial. ”
A Supporting View:
“What about the phrase 'rape of the land' or 'rape of the countryside?' Why is it ok for that to be used as it often is to describe violation and devastation of land, but it’s not ok to describe the devastation of a person by prescribed drugs as pharmaceutical rape? Rape is a very strong word and shouldn’t be used lightly, but if these people had seen the devastation left behind when pharma goes wrong they might understand why the word rape has been used. To rape is to violate and abuse against someone’s will and that is what is happening. The word isn’t being used as a metaphor, it is being used for what it means. Rape can take place in many different scenarios, it doesn’t mean exclusively sexual rape.”
“My son was violated in the worst possible way by pharmaceutical greed and stupid, uninformed doctors. After 17 days of taking the prescribed Celexa, he killed himself and someone else – behaviour totally alien to him. He was prescribed this drug for heartbreak, so no, sadly I don’t think its the wrong word. I think it’s a fair description.”
A Mixed View:
“I think what can be compared to rape is when a person is actually forced to consume a pharmaceutical. That really is like rape. Lack of complete information- lack of informed consent due to lack of information- not quite. Pretty close because of the amount of fraud perpetrated by the drug industry, but it's not the same. For one thing, a person has the option to say no to anything they don't know everything they need to know about, research it by other means than asking the prescribing doctor, seek alternatives, etc. It's not the same. Forced drugging (such as in mental hospitals) IS the same, and people who have experienced both, say so.”
A Supporting View:
“This [definition] at least does justice to the situation by employing the language that fits the crime...Literally, this definition of *rape* quite accurately describes the situation at hand:
'an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation:' –
The connection to *sexual assault victims* is implied — the helplessness and horror – as well as the other thoughtful analogies you point out.
I have heard victims of forced psychiatric drugging, describe their experience as “brain rape.”
It is exactly because the word, *rape* evokes strong emotional responses that I believe it is both appropriate and necessary to coin the term *pharmaceutical rape* AND open the discussion of the culture that accepts or silently condones it, *pharmaceutical rape culture*.
Financial reward is indeed a perverse motive that objectifies all of us in the mind of the *pharmaceutical rapist*– In this regard , I would say that your saying patients supply financial *usefulness* , a term that implies appreciation might be shown–is not quite the way to put it. I note that the behavior of these rapists is predatory and as such their is zero inherent value assigned to their prey. Our value is determined by their satisfaction. So it goes with victims who successfully sue, or otherwise cause disruptions in the gratification cycle —still violated, raped, victimized, but not so *useful*–
It is more likely that all victims of rape, including those who have been sexually violated, will find resonance with each other emotionally; that having been stripped of their humanity via authority, power and/or force they share basic needs for both the recognition of their innate value and strong condemnation of the rapist.–What rape victims would not hesitate to do for each other, those of us with both compassion and courage should do for them.”
- “Back in 1995 when I was first prescribed Seroxat, there were no warnings on the patient information leaflet that the drug could cause persistent sexual dysfunction, persistent emotional numbing, chronic insomnia, suicidal ideation or electric brain zaps (on withdrawal) or severe aggression and rage. Seroxat literally turned me into the devil. It made me NOT CARE about anything, indifferent, nonchalant and almost arrogant. I was dismissive of people’s feelings and that was one of the side effects that really stuck out. I didn’t like the idea of being indifferent to people’s feelings. The drug makes you so high at the same time that you feel a sudden sense of superiority and you lose all inhibition. It gives you a false sense of feeling great. It makes you suddenly outgoing and daring. You get addicted to the feelings of greatness. I’ve never taken cocaine, but can only imagine it’s similar to being on Seroxat. I basically went from being a timid, caring and quiet nineteen year old to a conflictive adult within weeks of taking it. My mother always said of me that I was the most sensitive of the family who looked out for and worried about everyone. But now, my whole family noticed the sudden change in personality, and my mother was quick to remind me that it was to be taken for a period of only 6 months. Time came to come off it and all hell broke loose. I was an emotional wreck. I was plagued with unexplainable bouts of intense rage, was aggressive, experienced the well-known electric brain zaps that come along with Seroxat withdrawal, the depersonalization, the increased abnormal levels of anxiety, the night sweats, the diarrhoea, the vomiting and panic attacks. There were moments where I would dig my nails into my gums till they bled. Something in my brain was triggering a violent spell. It only occurred to me recently that it was a form of self-harm – something I never did in my life. I remember how withdrawal drove me so insane, I drank down 200 pills without even realizing what I was doing that had me in a coma for 2 days. The temporary, artificial behaviour that surfaces during consumption and on withdrawal gave a puzzled psychiatrist no other option than to write me off as having Borderline Personality Disorder. I made the mistake of telling my family this, and I’ve been harshly judged. It was an unfair and inaccurate diagnosis that was made while I was under the influence of a mind-altering drug, and no-one would put my behaviour down to Seroxat, because it was an approved, legal prescription “medication” “suitable for the treatment of depression”. My reputation as a sane, respectable person has been so tarnished by this drug that even though I’m no longer on it, my family remain weary of me because of the diagnosis given during consumption. The storm subsided but once you are labeled, you remain labeled. To cut a long story short: withdrawal was such a horrendous experience that I ended up going back on and leaving the drug for a full 15 years. In 2007, I reported to my now ex boyfriend that I was having serious problems experiencing human emotions. I had become emotionally numb. In 2009, it came full circle. I woke up one morning and was no longer able to experience any emotions whatsoever. I couldn’t respond to affection, love, anger, etc. I had no interest in the places I once loved. I couldn’t appreciate the sun on my face or the view of the mountains. IT WAS NOT A CASE OF A RETURNED DEPRESSION. At the same time, I realised I had become 100% sexually dysfunctional. Insomnia soon followed. I knew full well the game was up. I knew it was time to get off Seroxat no matter what, with the hope of getting back to normal. So, I went back to the family home where I was thrown into the depths of hell again where a second suicide attempt took place, reaffirming to my family yet again the diagnosis of BPD. I managed to get off the drug, but the chronic sexual dysfunction, emotional numbing and chronic insomnia remain. I know full well Seroxat has done this to me, but I have had family members tell me that it’s BPD and as I “refuse therapy”, it’s now a case of: “Well, how do you expect to get better so”? No-one believes the drug is capable of leaving you sexually dysfunctional, emotionally numb or an insomniac. People assume it’s psychological or a returned depression. I too have gone from being the person I once was to being a recluse. I too have had my mental and physical self damaged and assaulted against my will. I too have been ravaged and violated to the point of no return by a prescription drug. Until I recover my ability to climax, feel emotions and sleep, I will never be the person I was before I went on the drug. The very essence of who I was has been taken way from me and I didn’t give consent to anyone to do that to me. My right to love my family has been take from me. My right to sleep at night has been taken from me. My right to feel sexual pleasure has been taken from me. I gave NO-ONE consent to do this to me and therefore feel in a sense I too have been raped, but out of respect for those who have experienced sexual assault, I will continue to use the word violated.”
An Opposing View:
“I think side-effects and lies would more easily be considered a civil and human rights violation than a "rape", personally. I think it holds more weight too historically, to link it with continual historic disregard for life experiences of certain populations of people (in a very wide range, from race, to gender, to illness) as determined by an elite group who decide someone has deviated from a small set of rules in behavior or standards oddly based entirely on ability to perform for a certain length a set of work and society tasks. In my mind I connect side-effects and and pills with past medical and other traumas (I'll spare everyone triggering details, and assume you all know), which is ultimately what side-effects are. It's just a pill doing it to you rather than a direct person.”
A Supporting View:
- “This piece is brilliantly timed for folks in the UK, where it looks like Tory prime minister David Cameron has just floated a scheme to cut off disability benefits to those who “refuse treatment” for any disabling condition. Cameron proposes to extend this to obese beneficiaries who “fail to diet” as well as to anyone who turns down an addiction treatment program that, in the judgment of the State, might help return them to the job market...Given the sacred-cow status of psychiatric drugs in our society, it’s chilling to realize how easily, in the wrong political circumstances, we could be forced to swallow drugs “for our own good” that were actually doing us more harm than good. Especially given the campaign by groups like NAMI to establish “anosognosia” (the inability to percieve one’s own illness) as the proper “diagnosis” for any person who declines drug treatment. (It’s a bit like witchcraft … refusal to confess is one of the surest signs you ARE a witch.) I hope that NAMI members who consider themselves liberals and progressives (and there are many) will take a good hard look at this Tory initiative in the UK and ask themselves where this line of thinking could lead us.”
- “To me rape means having your physical and mental self damaged and assaulted against your will, or because you did not fully understand what you are doing. I would never wish for a sexual assault victim to feel trivialized after the horror they have endured.
I have witnessed someone go through withdrawal from a prescription drug and he has been ravaged and raped by it physically and mentally. Although recovered to a certain extent I don’t think he will ever be the person he was before he went on the drug. It’s as if his very self has been destroyed. He looks the same, sounds the same but he isn’t him anymore just a washed out version of his former self who no longer feels emotions in the same way, doesn’t seem to derive any pleasure from life and feels ashamed about what happened to him. So I would say he has been raped not sexually but he has been raped and pillaged of his personality. The difference being that he was assaulted in a completely legal way and no one except him will ever be held accountable or punished for it.”
An Opposing View:
“Seconding those who have pointed out that using the word rape as a metaphor for other kinds of coercion is deeply unhelpful and messes around with the definition of what happened to those who have experienced rape. It's disrespectful and unhelpful to do so. I also think it is pretty unimaginative not to come up with some other way to describe what happens with forced drugging and other malpractice with regards to psychiatric "treatment". For sure there is a massive cultural problem with the way these "illnesses" are described and dealt with. I don't dispute for a millisecond that these issues are serious and widespread and wrong. But it really is not the same kind of violation as sexual rape. To conflate the two makes me feel a bit seasick. And I think enough others have pointed out similar that it might be worth taking on board.............”
A Supporting View:
“Doubtless some people who have been raped will be horrified at the comparison. If you compare rape to dry mouth, or constipation then of course this is a no-brainer. But what if we compare rape to the autistic spectrum disorder that steals away a child, or that gives a child spina bifida, or the frantic agitation that leads an elderly father to throw himself out a window impaling himself on the the iron railings below, or the delirium that leads a father to murder his own child or worse again children, or a 13 year old boy to hang himself in the bathroom between his parents bedroom and his own?
And has any rapist ever behaved worse that the legal team for Pfizer sending a private detective to scrape the bathroom carpet in an effort to show this was erotic asphyxiation gone wrong rather than suicide on Zoloft?
Are there really any mothers or daughters out there who think rape is the wrong word for this?”
“I can see why you use the word rape but in some cases its far worse than that. Like you said the man that killed his children, I’m sure he feels far more than raped but dangerously deceived by the real murderers. When I was pinned down naked on a cold concrete floor in a police cell I felt raped but when I stood in the courtroom doc and was told I was guilty I felt deceived and entrapped by a corrupt system.”
- “Pharmaceutical rape exists, it is a danger that people need to know about. The word rape has almost become synonymous with sexual attacks, but rape does mean to violate, to abuse, to take without consent, to destroy and to ruin. Pharmaceutical companies are guilty of all of these acts and in my eyes they are also guilty of murder as well.
They have no shame, the case of that poor young boy who hung himself makes my blood boil! He must have been so desperate and frightened. Not only did his parents lose their son in such a horrific way, they then had to endure the violation of their son's memory by Pfizer who would do anything to get themselves off the hook—even slander a dead child. They disgust me.”
Two Points of Opposition:
People are actually raped in psychiatric and medical settings who need to be able to name what has happened to them and we cannot do that if someone decides that rape doesn't mean rape and things that are similar to rape are rape.
Invalidating rape causes harm. If the whole point is to show the harm from being coerced to take meds, trivializing something others live through is not the way to do it.
A Supporting View:
“It's well known that Rape victims are treated badly by the criminal justice system and that Court can be an ordeal. In the case of drug induced injury – its impossible to even get to Court outside of North America. In the US, while it's possible to win some cases, you become aware of the power of the system – how its heavily loaded against people who have legitimate cases.
Within the UK mental health system, it's almost impossible to persuade the system that treatment is producing the problems the person has – even though in an increasing proportion of cases it is. This leaves lots of people wondering whether, to secure their sanity or health, if they should leave the country.”
“ I wasn’t only stripped naked, I was assaulted several times too. I had my face rammed into the floor being suffocated, my head was then rammed into a sharp object. I had handcuffs tightened so tight I felt like shards of sharp glass were cutting into my wrists and when I screamed I was in pain they tightened them even more. I was then eventually given a gown only for that to be ripped off me again, then when I attacked them back they pulled me to the floor and rammed my head with such force into the concrete ground I thought my skull would break.
What was my crime – like others, SSRI induced alcoholism and all the problems of job loss and loss of friends and family that can go with that.
When I came out of the cell I wanted to get a machine gun go back and take everyone of them out, I also felt like ramming my car into the central barrier of the motorway the following day. I have never felt so violated, hurt and angry in all my life.
I imagine this is how a rape victim must feel also? I am therefore very concerned not to minimize what happens to them – the last thing I would want is to make a victim feel their suffering was less than something else. But while those of us who have not been raped can imagine how awful it is, it seems those who have not been violated by drugs don’t seem able to imagine what we have been through.”
Pharmaceutical rape is not a metaphor. It is not a game. It is a name for the devastation that has happened to, and is happening to, real people.
We are not saying pharmaceutical rape is synonymous with sexual assault. The word has not been divorced from a real life act in order to meet some rhetorical goal. We are saying pharmaceutical rape is a real event, a type of rape.
We are not redefining rape. We are naming our devastation—experiences of extreme violation that absolutely fit a description of rape.
The naming of these experiences “pharmaceutial rape,” while mirroring language that was written to expose the reality of a rape culture, actually serves to support and validate all rape victims in a time when many vehemently deny any rape culture even exists.