No Torture or Degrading Treatment

Torture is an unfortunate part of U.S. history dating back to pre-Revolutionary times. The terms “tarring and feathering” and “run out of town on a rail,” for example, both refer to torture methods that were practiced by colonists in early America. But rather than talking about corrupt government practices of the past or even current practices such as waterboarding or electric shock right now, let us focus on some other instances of torture and degrading treatment — instances happening here in the District today: violence against women.

The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights States in article 5: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

How does one define torture?

Torture is the action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment, to force them to do or say something, or for the pleasure of the person inflicting the pain. This pain can be both emotional and physical. To degrade means treat or regard (someone) with contempt or disrespect — to belittle them or make them feel invaluable as a person.

As we are now living in the era of the #MeToo movement, domestic violence and other forms of violence against women are beginning to appear more and more on people’s radar.

Violence directed against women by their intimate partners (current or former spouses, boyfriends, dating partners, etc) is an epidemic of great proportion that has devastating physical, emotional, financial, and social effects on not only women, but also children, families, and communities around the world and here in the National Capital Area.

It is, in fact, a human rights abuse as it causes harm and degradation to the women who has undergone this torture.

Sexual assaults reported in DC in recent years have increased. According to the DC Policy Center, in each year between 2009 and 2016, more sexual assaults were reported compared to the previous year.

Aside from these statistics being alarming in themselves, it is also alarming when you start to think of all of the women who have never reported such acts of violence because they fear being judged, blamed, harmed, or otherwise further endangered.

So, what happens when violence against women takes place?

The UNA-NCA Human Rights Committee has launched a project called #MappingForward from Violence Against Women. We are collecting stories (which can be submitted anonymously) of violence against women here in DC, through a small grant we won from UNA-USA and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

These stories can be told through

  • Interviews or essays
  • Poetry
  • Digitalized art, including paintings, sculpture, or photos

and they can have taken place at any time in the District — because these experiences of violence are carried through the years.

Along with each story, we are asking for 3 key pieces of information:

  • What year the violence was experienced
  • What neighborhood in DC it took place in
  • What kind of violence it was.

The stories can focus on the act of violence itself or explore life after this experience — what it is like to live through it, to carry the pain, and to heal from the wounds.

Learn more about sharing your own story, hosting a #Gendersnaps event, or otherwise supporting and partnering with the project here.

Violence against women is a problem here in DC and it is most certainly a form of torture and degradation.

Women’s rights shouldn’t have to be a subject; they should simply just be HUMAN RIGHTS, where people, regardless of gender, are being treated equally, fairly, and with dignity and respect.

Learn more about what you can do to help improve human rights in the DC area by joining the UNA-NCA Human Rights Committee and help make a difference in your community. Contact us today.


This post was written by Erica Rodgers, UNA-NCA Human Rights Committee Member, as part of an ongoing series focused on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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