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Sexual Humiliation

Sexual humiliation usually involves forcing individuals to perform humiliating acts, often in an attempt to exploit cultural and religious stereotypes regarding sexual behavior and induce feelings of shame, guilt and worthlessness.

Sexual humiliation can result in lasting psychological symptoms in the form of posttraumatic stress disorder and major depression, and that individuals often relive the humiliation long after their release through flashbacks and nightmares. Sexually humiliating treatment can also affect an individual’s sense of identity and autonomy. Individuals often experience feelings of intense shame, guilt, grief, fear, and social isolation. Victims who have been forced into humiliating acts can feel “responsible for participating in their own degradation” resulting in intense and long lasting shame.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has found that both depriving detainees of clothing and stripping them naked are psychologically harmful methods used by the United States that constitute torture and ill-treatment.[1] The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has found that even mere threats of sexual humiliation “could be considered to amount to psychological torture.”[2]

A photograph of sexual humiliation of detainees in US custody, Abu Ghraib, Iraq.

[1] Hashemian F, Crosby S, Iacopino V, Keller A, Nguyen L, Ozkalipici O, et, al. Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of Torture by US Personnel and It’s Impact. Physicians for Human Rights. June, 2008. pp. 108. (Hereafter: Broken Laws, Broken Lives).

[2] Broken Laws, Broken Lives pp. 108.