Showering Has a Dark, Violent Period in its Long History
December 15, 2018 2:55 PM   Subscribe

When looking a brief history of bathing (Lecia Bushak, Medical Daily), there's a missing story: the dark, violent interlude where showers were used as a way to treat—and control—psychiatric patients (Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic).
posted by filthy light thief (5 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
CIA torture tactics: What the terms really mean [Mashable 12/10/2014]:
Cold showers

Though the technique may not sound brutal on the surface, this would go on for up to 20 minutes with frigid water, according to the report. Here's a description of what happened to one prisoner:
Rahman was so cold that he could barely utter his alias. According to [the on-site linguist], the entire process lasted no more than 20 minutes. It was intended to lower Rahman's resistance and was not for hygienic reasons. At the conclusion of the shower, Rahman was moved to one of four sleep deprivation cells where he was left shivering for hours, his hands chained over his head.
This practice was carried out without DOJ approval.
...and perhaps accompanied by other government-approved aquatic activities like waterboarding and water dousing.
posted by cenoxo at 5:18 PM on December 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

On the flip side, today, it is not uncommon to see the use of cold water recommended on the face to deliberately trigger the diving reflex at times of intense emotion or panic in order to help calm down. Which is the sort of thing that is probably why this was done in the first place--it's not completely unfounded, there are potentially real psychiatric benefits, and certainly it could help to calm down someone if not cure them. The nervous system is a hell of a thing.

The big difference is helping someone learn to douse their own face in ice water instead of doing it for them. So much psychiatric care now is substantially improved by respecting that people with mental health conditions are entitled to some control over their own care, their own lives in general. There's no reason for this to be degrading and dangerous.
posted by Sequence at 5:37 PM on December 15, 2018 [15 favorites]

A Death in a Florida Prison Goes Unpunished, by Eyal Press (New Yorker, March 23, 2017).

Here's the opening par:

"In 2013, a Florida inmate named Mark Joiner sent a letter to the Forgotten Majority, a prisoners’-rights organization based in Jacksonville. In the letter, Joiner explained that he had recently been transferred to the Columbia Correctional Institution, in Lake City, from Dade, a state prison forty miles south of Miami, where, he wrote, “I witnessed starvation and other forms of torture being used to control or discipline mentally ill patients.” One method employed was “to place inmates under scalding hot water,” Joiner alleged, a punishment that, on June 23, 2012, “killed inmate Darren Rainey,” who suffered from schizophrenia and died after guards locked him inside a scorching shower for nearly two hours. Joiner indicated that, since his transfer, he had tried to contact Florida law-enforcement agencies, to no avail. “If I’m interviewed I’ll prove to law enforcement that this was intentional,” he went on, adding that guards had ordered him to remove from the shower pieces of skin that had peeled off Rainey’s body."
posted by Paul Slade at 6:30 AM on December 16, 2018

This might explain why the obsolete upper class British term for a shower was “taking a spray [bath]”, to distinguish it from the purely medical procedure.
posted by scruss at 7:27 AM on December 16, 2018

...are we the baddies?
posted by heatherlogan at 1:14 PM on December 16, 2018

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