Sera Davidow: Intersections Between Sexual Violence and Psychiatric Abuse

Emily Cutler

This week on MIA Radio we interview Sera Davidow, a psychiatric survivor and prolific activist for the human rights of people labeled mentally ill. Sera serves as the Director of the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community and is a founding member of the Hearing Voices USA Board of Directors.


Through her work, she has gained a range of experiences including starting up a peer respite, opening resource centers, and producing educational materials on non-coercive, non-pathologizing alternatives to the traditional mental health system. Sera is a regular blogger for Mad in America and has written extensively on the topics of forced treatment and sexual violence.

In this interview, we discuss the parallels and intersections between coercive psychiatric care and sexual assault.

In this episode we discuss:

  • Sera’s lived experience as a psychiatric survivor and survivor of sexual violence.
  • The similarities between sexual violence and forms of psychiatric abuse including forced drugging, forced intubation, forced catheterization, strip searches, restraint, and containment.
  • How even seemingly minor or routine parts of psychiatric hospitalization, such as regularly monitoring patients, can be violating.
  • The role that victim-blaming and gaslighting play in both sexual violence and psychiatric coercion.
  • That the language and terminology of the mental health system such as “mental illness,” “noncompliance,” and “anosognosia” serve to perpetuate violence.
  • That people’s discomfort with big emotions and taboo topics often prevent trauma survivors from speaking about their experiences within psychiatric settings.
  • How we can help providers and the general public understand the trauma and violence of psychiatric coercion.

Relevant Links:

Sera Davidow

A World That Would Have Us Doubt: Rape, the System, and Swim Fans

Us, Too: Sexual Violence Against People Labeled Mentally Ill

Feminism 101: What is Gaslighting?

To get in touch with us email: [email protected]


  1. This is such an important topic, but gets very little attention, even in the antipsychiatry/psych reform community. Back in the 70s, feminist writers were VERY strong about the role psychiatry plays in enforcing the norms of patriarchy, and how psychiatric diagnosis is used to pathologize the (predominantly female) victims of violence and protect the perpetrators of such violence. I am not sure how this thread has been lost, but I rarely if ever hear modern-day feminists talk about this issue, even though it appears far worse today than it ever was in 1975. What’s going on there? What can we do to re-link with current-day feminist activists and get onto the same page?

    • This problem is part of what destroyed the credibility of the psychological industries in the 1970s.

      The modern day “feminists,” as well as the “feminists” of the ’60’s and ’70’s, were always, and still seemingly are, apparently financed by the globalist bankers, like the Rockefeller’s and the Rothschild’s controlled George Soros.

      I mean, really, what kind of self respecting woman walks around with a vagina on her head? Only ones with so little self respect and awareness they’d take money from George Soros.

      These globalist banksters are utilizing today’s American psychiatrists to play out the same game that was played out in Nazi Germany and Bolshevik led Russia, based upon their same deluded beliefs.

      I absolutely agree with Sara, we live in a way too paternalistic society, with a “mental health profession,” which pretends it cares about rape of women and children. But actually has zero ability, whatsoever, to even bill insurance companies to help sexual abuse victims.

      Since today, child abuse specifically, is classified as a “V Code,” and the “V Codes” are NOT insurance billable DSM disorders.

      This inability for today’s “mental health professionals” to be able to bill insurance companies for actually helping child abuse victims or other victims of sexual abuse, without first misdiagnosing them with one of the billable DSM disorders, has resulted in millions of child abuse and sexual assault victims being misdiagnosed with the billable DSM disorders.

      Today, over 80% of those labeled as “depressed,” “anxious,” “bipolar,” or “schizophrenic” are child abuse victims. Over 90% of those labeled as “borderline” are child abuse victims.

      Today’s “mental health” industry is one gigantic, child abuse covering up, iatrogenic illness creating system. They have chosen to defame, torture, and murder child abuse victims on a massive scale, while they still fraudulently claim they are here to help them. All after they also hypocritically promised to “first and foremost do no harm.”

      It’s a satanic system, and it needs to end. Having six giant men hold a woman down, then chemically rape her, is no better than any other kind of gang rape. It is about power, it is not “proper medical care.”

      Thank you for speaking about how forced psychiatric chemical rapes are similar to all other rapes, Sara.

  2. Such great connections between sexualized violence and psychiatric violence Sera.
    Asking providers what they were willing to give up, in order to help them begin to consider what users are forced to forfeit just to be “let in” the no-exist door of “MH”, is brilliant.
    Exercises like this, could be used as part of an activist manual to surviving the toxic stupidity of the system. Short of locking these head fk’s up in prison, baby steps to maturing them into fully functioning human beings, (assuming that’s possible) may be the only way to reach those “in charge”.
    Improving the quality of the lives that people who dare to experience distress are subjected to, may well depend on the ability to kiss ass (it seems that is exactly what many of those who are welcomed into their world, are adept at doing) and find ways to relate to those who enjoy the benefits abusing their power over others, affords them.
    It’s critical that we find ways to integrate this and other inter-related conversations into the #METOO movement, (that thank god, is not going away.) I am going to post this interview using that hashtag.
    It would be great if this could be posted in women’s enews and other such places. Paula Caplan posts there, so it is possible that they would be open to publishing it even though they are completely off base on the whole “MH” BS.
    Infiltrate the mainstream one toe at a time until we are maybe “allowed” to enjoy the rights and benefits that full person-hood affords “good, normal people” that these abusers are currently denying us. (

  3. Thanks for addressing this. Thanks, Sera and Emily. I listened to the whole thing. Please, please do more on this! MIA does not address this topic enough. Too much about drugs, not enough about force and abuse in so-called “care.”

    The reason why this harm, the main harm of the System is so rarely addressed is that this harm is so obvious and so huge and so widespread that most people don’t even notice it.

    When I was back in the nuthouses I tried to talk about the parallels with forced care and sexual violence. Of course I was called psychotic just for speaking up. When I said that intubation was rape, I was told to be silent. When I suggested that forced catheterization was rape, I was told I was psychotic. When I said that being glared at while I ate was violating, I was called crazy. When I ended up traumatized from all that they did, I was told I “needed treatment.” How ironic.

    I agree that trauma-informed care is a myth because they don’t validate that “care” itself is often abusive, and therefore, not care at all.

    I wonder why they need a trigger warning. Do we get trigger warnings before we get locked up in hospitals?

    I’m going to be linking to this in my blog because it reflects exactly what I have been blogging about for the past 5-10 years or so. Only if Sera says it, maybe people will finally hear the message.

      • Please do ! People aren’t listening because the subject matter is just too disturbing. To realize that medical and psychiatric “care” is so destructive commands a very drastic change. But most people prefer to trust the medical community and trick themselves into figuring : “Of course, their methods seem cruel, but we are not competent tu judge the work of our dedicated doctors and nurses’ …

  4. I have been strip searched many times. I have been forcibly stripped by male guards and put into restraints naked, I have been assaulted by an ER nurse (this happened in the ER lobby so a video camera caught it and the chief of police decided to press charges but that was after the arriving cops refused to take my statement and a PRN order for four point restraints plus haldol injected against my will when I was not in any distress just listening to music lying on my gurney.) I have been restrained after I was asleep and forced to defecate in my clothing then publicly changed into a see through gown. This was all so terribly disturbing to me that I began to shit on the floor and smear feces in response. When I saw a young woman’s “safety plan” involved restraints, I called out time and again, stop sexually assaulting her! The hospital hated me for that, but some aides privately acknowledged th truth in my objections. Finally I am out of the system completely and will never allow such violations to occur again. Nevertheless when I was briefly kept overnight for observation (physical reasons) the final diagnosis was itself a violation: I had told them I went to medical school in the 70s —which is true! But they decided to diagnose “delusional disorder” as a result.

    Thank you for this podcast and for speaking out, someone whose voice is heard, unlike mine which has been silenced. I appreciate it more than I can say.

  5. I will admit I haven’t even taken time to listen yet (it will comme when I’ll do the dishes or some other duty of the sort) but still, I want to say thanks and bravo for such a demonstration. What caught my attention the mere title that “shocked” me. Because, just over 3 months after 2 years of being periodically coerced into tacking either Seroquel of Lithium for alleged bipolar disorder, I still get flashbacks of what I consider a PTSD linked to the terrible feelings I flet about being robbed of my dignity and attacked on my mental and physical integrity. Of course, people around me consider I react as a sissy because common sense says it was only good medical practice. I don’t see it that innocent and even benevolent way. I was scared like shit, panicky and mostly afraid the psychiatrists would go through with their threats of committing me into the psychiatric facilities where I worked part time during many years as a psychologist. Luckily, I was never hospitalized even thought I stood my ground and refused to submit. My story has a relatively happy ending but still, I feel a deep scar remains. On a more global aspect of all this, we must realize that “PTSD” has been arbitrarily restricted, with DSM revisions, to actual danger of death so as to not incriminate many other instances of trauma, namely coercition, professional abuse of every kind, institutional violence and other forms of abuse that are pervasive and left unchallenged. It is no coincidence that most DSM diagnosis expand ever more with each revision process (the criteria are less strict), but PTSD, for which medication has the least ground is shrinking.

    • I finally took the tike. And I am disgusted. Thanks for a refresher on how I felt abused, degraded, non believed and gaslighted beyond my imagination. Hearing you made me go trough 2 years of almost hell. And I managed not to let them drug me. But my job, my relationships, my dignity was practically wrecked and torn to shreds. After 34 years as a psychologist, dedicated to my best to thousands, and just in to my sixties, I still don’t accept how I have been so mistreated !

      • JC, I wish MIA would talk about this issue more.

        I am working on a new article for MIA about how some, certainly not all, workplaces are oppressive and reminiscent of the nuthouses in their hierarchical structure and overbearing “policies.” I went through a bad workplace situation in January so that inspired me to write it. (I have another job now that seems totally reasonable so far!)

        • Julie, I’ll get back to you in private on this issue. I worked 34 years as a clinical psychologist in the MH, addiction and Youth protection agencies and am totally flabbergasted about how my “peers” mistreated me, as ell as how my former employer deceived me, if not outright set me up to disgrace and dishonor. It all stated with my own family problems and, sadly, our distress transported in my wotkplace, the trigger that my bosses used to push me out the door, for very different issues. They had a good pretext. As a psychologist, my superiors had all the leverage needed to coerce me, bully me and do whatever they intended, pretexting the dangerousness of an unstable psy. So, I guess I was raped bu MH as well as my former employers. Sorry for my vulgarity, but I feel the need to scream out ” “They f…ed me up real nice”

          • jclaude I have a contact page at my blog site I will get back to you.

            I have heard similar stories from others. The MH racket is abusive, the abuse is passed on and passed on…down to the patients it claims to treat. That’s horrible that that happened to you, but sadly not surprising. I want to hear more about what happened.

  6. I am surprised, but then again, not so surprised, that so few have commented here. We have been silenced too many times. When I say abuse, I only mean psychiatric abuse as I was not abused by my parents, and yet, since psychiatry refuses to admit it could possibly do harm, they insisted all those years that I must have had bad parents. The repeated accusations did terrible harm to my family, to my parents and siblings especially.

    • You bring in a very bright and special perspective. Many who write here complain that psychiatry dont believe the victims, And now, you bring up the opposite point of vue. Professional “helpers” are sometimes prone on blaming the parents. An d that is also very traumatizing. Thanks for your post. It messes everything up, but then, we are in a very messed up world. Good reality check.

      • Thanks, Jclaude. I was peer-pressured into believing I must have had bad parents since I began to hear horror stories in the therapy groups. I asked myself, “If I am here, then something must have gone on.” The group pressured me to “talk about it.” They assumed I had been abused and kept needling me to talk about child abuse that had never occurred. In my book, the memoir I published, I have a chapter on that exact moment I was pressured in group therapy. I re-created the scene (with names changed).

        What happened in the scene was odd. I was pressured by the other patients. They were expecting a child abuse horror story. If any horror story had happened to me, it was my eating disorder, that is, a dieting cycle I could not end, which had only started maybe 18 months prior to that moment.

        I was terrified to tell the group the truth. “Sorry, I have no child abuse horror stories to tell you. I don’t make the grade. I’m not good enough for you all. I do have embarrassing eating problems even though I might look okay to you.”

        I never said that. What came out that afternoon was an ear-piercing scream. Likely, I was screaming at the irony of the moment.

        • OMG, Julie Greene. A very eloquent example of “group thought” pressure if ever I witnessed one. I gave group therapy for over 30 years and it is the hardest way of helping but, alas, also very popular. And, unexperienced therapists, of every horizon, often don’t event understand how a group therapy can harm, too enmeshed and zealous to give out a quick fix. Scapegoating, “parent blaming” and “society blaming”, among many other pitfalls, can just reinforce bad feelings, resentment and coming up with bad conclusions about the causes of everybody’ misery and ailment. I once saw a movie about a teen bootcamp and even if I’m well informed, I was positively impressed by the intense, unbearable pressure the group was putting on a rebellious young woman, that resulted in catharsis and spectacular releie. Of, course, movies often have good endings. But, in real life, things don’t always have such nice outcomes. To get back to the testimony of Sera Davidow, it all comes to the same thing : people, either peers in group therapy as well as “professional carers” all stereotypes, beliefs,¨group of origin” thinking and popular ways of construing reality that put people in categories that more often than not disqualify (or invalidate) their own perspective, which is a form of violation, dismissal of the persons effort to make cense of what actually happened, or is still happening. Peer pressure can be harmful, but in the context of group therapy, the adults in charge have a big part of responsibility for the harm. And, when all this is perpetuated by “professionals”, it is even more devastating and totally outrageous.

          • Jclaude you can read my memoir for free on my blog,, it is available in .pdf format (you’ll find a link in the sidebar). I think you will laugh over the Family Therapy chapters. I quoted the therapy sessions nearly word for word. Of course I had to be careful…..

  7. Thank you Sera.

    Your calm resolve of truth lands in my heart with my own experience.

    Childhood sexual abuse to how teachers physically and emotionally abused me in front of my class to how the medical and psychiatric system took my power away and my quality and clarity of self away.

    THIS for 2 decades because of 3 months of believing diagnosis and institutionalization, drugging, along with forced drugging and physically being forced to be where I don’t want to be and not feel I have anywhere else to turn is STILL not allowed to be heard in my BIG EMOTIONS with this experience with family and friends who are no longer friends as well as counselors I have had and terminated because of their lack of understanding or compassion or space for hope and empowerment. Duh, suicidal feelings and thoughts.

    Thanks Sera. If I could afford to move to be of service and know the experience of what I assume is consistent at RLC in Mass, I would move. Maybe I will visit someday.

    I know you’re busy, but would love to know if/when you are speaking and can be heard elsewhere.

    • No, they don’t. But bad physical care, as well as bad public health in general also shorten’s lives. And also, psych drugs cause many other ailments that impede on longevity : liver problems, diabetes, heat failure, sudden death (also called ? I don’t remember, but I think it has something to do with synergetic serotonin failure or something) and sex drive halt and anhedonia, and also shakes, tremors, sever withdrawal reactions like “mind zaps”, and suicide, and sudden extreme violent outbursts, and the list goes on. As well as obesity, of course.