Writing a #StopTheShock Op-Ed

Thank you for your interest in writing an op-ed to #StopTheShock!

An op-ed is a story written for a newspaper, magazine, or website to share the opinions of everyday people who don’t work in the news. If you write an op-ed, it can help a lot more people learn about the JRC and how to #StopTheShock.

Here is a sample op-ed you can reference for guidance. We will also go over some tips and talking points for writing your op-ed below the sample.

For years, the disability community has worked to ban the graduated electronic decelerator (GED), a device that is used to torture of autistic people, and those with other developmental disabilities, in an institution called the Judge Rotenberg Center. 

The JRC is the only place in the United States that uses this device. The JRC uses the GED as an “aversive:” they use the pain of the electric shock to punish people for doing certain things. People with disabilities have been shocked at the JRC for things like flapping their hands, standing up without permission, not taking off their coat, and even for screaming in pain while being shocked.

Using the GED doesn’t only hurt people with disabilities physically; those who were shocked by the GED have developed PTSD, depression, and anxiety disorders. In 2013, the United Nations put out a report calling the use of the GED “torture”. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) even put out their own report 5 years ago that said the GED should be banned.

In 2020, the FDA banned the use of skin shock devices on people with disabilities. The ban was supported by decades of advocacy and extensive research. The Judge Rotenberg Center sued in order to keep using the devices – that’s how determined they are to continue to torture disabled people on a daily basis. Two out of three judges on the DC Circuit Court sided with the Judge Rotenberg Center, striking down the ban on a technicality. 

By striking down the ban, the DC Circuit Court undone much of the progress that the FDA had made. People with disabilities have continued to be tortured at the JRC. They shouldn’t have to live in fear and pain another day. With your help, we can spread awareness and take action to close the JRC for good.

While much of the advocacy focus has been on the national level, there is now critical state-level legislation that would affect the Judge Rotenberg Center. The New York state legislature is introducing Andre’s Law. This bill would stop the state from sending any more people to the JRC. The bill is named after Andre McCollins, who has spoken out along with his family after he was tortured at the Judge Rotenberg Center. Most of the JRC’s residents come from New York. If Andre’s Law (S.8935) passes, more New York residents cannot be sent to the JRC, which is a huge and important step towards shutting down the JRC for good.

As a disabled resident of  [your town] , I want the people of  [your town]  to know about the atrocities happening at the JRC that hurt autistic people and those with other disabilities, so that they can help stop this abuse. It only takes a few minutes to speak out, and you can find out how at autisticadvocacy.org/stoptheshock. We have a chance to make a real difference — we shouldn’t let this torturous practice continue.

Here are some general tips about op-eds, as well as what you can do to make your op-ed stand out:

  • Most online newspapers and magazines have a section of their website to submit op-eds. You can also check your local newspaper to find information about how to submit an op-ed.
  • Different news sources have different rules about op-eds (like how long it should be). You can usually find these rules in the same place that you can find out how to submit an op-ed. Make sure you follow these rules as you write your op-ed.
  • Not every op-ed gets chosen to go in a magazine or newspaper. Your op-ed is more likely to get chosen if you show that the topic is relevant. One way to do that is to mention that how it affects you and your community.
  • Having some facts about the JRC and GED to show how bad they are is an important part of your op-ed. You can use our JRC Factsheet to find some of this information.
  • Try and include information about why working to #StopTheShock is important to you personally. People will be more interested in hearing your story than just reading a list of facts.
  • Be very clear about what you want your op-ed readers to do after they read your op-ed. Your op-ed is a call to action, so make sure you let them know how to act!
  • The “Resources” section of http://www.theopedproject.org/ has a list of the op-ed rules for over 100 major news sources, as well as some extra tips on how to write a good op-ed.