Death by a thousand cuts

I am being tortured. Tortured not by coordinated design — tortured by an uncoordinated and independent set of procedures that, taken together and individually, can be described as nothing less than the deliberate infliction of repeated and significant emotional distress. I have come to that distressing reality by pondering exactly why I get so upset when I need to go somewhere with “security.”

I always alarm. I always alarm because I have metal in my left wrist and both hips, and because I wear an artificial leg. So I always alarm. The latest was at my county courthouse. My right hip was felt up and down, without announcement, without request for permission. A female guard simply reached out and pawed me.

I’m sick and tired of being tortured. After being criminally assaulted twice in my life, I get a little touchy when I’m not in control of when and how I am touched by strangers. Sorry, but that’s what commonly happens in trauma cases. So since I am again getting worked up about yesterday, here is the text of the letter I sent to my county sheriff:

Dear Sheriff Bouchard:

I am writing to describe an incident that occurred at the Courthouse this afternoon. I was entering via the North Entrance, where a thin, tall white-haired male officer was at station accompanied by a rather petite, short, sandy-haired female officer with extremely blue eyes. I was intent on registering for the real estate auction, as I want my IRA to hopefully either flip or hold and rent some local units. As I was putting my purse on the conveyor, I announced that I would set off the metal detector “like a Christmas tree.” I have extensive metal on and about my person, and announced same: “Wrist, two hips, knee, shin, and ankle.” As described, I did indeed set off the metal detectors. However, instead of merely wanding me, as has happened countless times by your officers, this woman summarily ran her hand up and down my right hip. No explanation, no asking for permission – just unannounced and quite unwelcome physical contact. After attending to business in the Treasurer’s office, I returned and chastised the officer for her treatment.

I want to invoke some empathy here . . .  imagine what it is like being me – a 62-year-old, 114-lb woman with teratogenic birth defects caused by my father’s WWII exposure to Hiroshima radiation. Over the past 12 years I have had my sense of humor totally destroyed by being constantly assaulted, to the point of being strip-searched, by various security personnel. For me, it is becoming death by a thousand cuts.

I can accommodate being wanded, although that really is a concession on my part. I have quite a philosophical problem with current security approaches that treat medical assistive devices as probable cause for a frisk. I believe that is morally wrong. However, mostly, the male officers with whom I have dealt in the past (even at TSA headquarters in Arlington) quickly assess the situation, wand me, and I’m done. This woman fell right into a TSA-like “guilty until proven innocent” mindset. I take great umbrage to the second-class treatment that this woman meted out.

So, my federal government has effectively locked me out of air travel. Private entertainment venues, such as football games, have locked me out of attendance. My question to you is, then: are your officers going to effectively bar me from accessing my county government?


Wendy Thomson

Can we please band together and stop this insane and egregious intrusion upon an individual’s personal physical sanctity? This, from a member of society who belongs to the population subset that experiences this far more than you physically “normal” people. Band together now . . . this might just be coming to a theater near you, soon.

  • Tika 1505

    Have you filed a Section 504 complaint under ADA? The L3 machines at airports return 100% false positives against people with disabilities, and people with metal implants and artificial limbs always return false positives with metal detectors.

    I was brutally maimed by a TSA screener, and their attitude, of course, is “blame the victim.” It was not until I went to DOJ with citations to the studies which were sent to the German Parliament, among others, that I got something like a response. I am not the only disabled person who is complaining about the torturous and dehumanizing treatment of those of us who live in less-than perfect bodies. I am glad that you have inspired me to raise the specter of being disallowed access to courts and other public buildings because of torture due to the limitations of a machine. I am disgusted that a machine out-ranks me in the scheme of things, so I guess we should get a voter-registration campaign going for machines.

    I just wish we had something like an NRA to assist with the Fourth Amendment like we do with the Second Amendment. Thank you for writing your representatives. It won’t be until hundreds of thousands of complaints are received by the elected officials that something just might begin to be done. The Judiciary apparently is afraid or is otherwise bending to political pressure because many Constitutional questions are being side-stepped. The judiciary know that they’re wrong, but they don’t want to have to admit it. It’s sort of what happened when Brown v Board of Education overturned Plessy v Ferguson. I just pray that it won’t take about a century for someone to hold all three branches of government accountable. My thoughts are that it will take a “face-saving” case to get this done in the manner that it was a tax case that overturned DOMA.

    Keep at it. Don’t give up. That’s their tactic – throw enough road blocks and enough frustration at the victim until they give up so that TSA etc can go about business as usual. I just fired off another letter to Senator Boxer over something similar to this.

  • Rmulligan


    My frustration and anger grows each day at this abomination. While I am blessed and have all my own body parts, I can empathize with the trauma many of those with medical devices are subjected by pseudo security personnel. The level of torture we are subjected to is a travesty and we must continue working to educate and stop policies that force us to leave our rights, morals, values and ethics at the door of our homes. Thank you again for all you do!

  • The Fourth Amendment is supposed to apply everywhere you go on American soil. It’s time to remind our elected officials of that.

    • anc1entmar1ner

      Then do so. I write my congressman, senators and the White House regarding this issue every time my or my family’s rights are violated by TSA. The only way the Fourth Amendment will ever be restored is if enough of us complain bitterly and constantly – and back up our complaints with the sort of intimidation that the NRA uses to enforce the Second Amendment.

      • George W Obama

        What does the NRA or the second amendment have to do with any of this? Are you attempting to turn this in to a anti second amendment discussion? Do you hate guns? You cannot claim to support one amendment then cherry pick what you don’t like.

        • GWO, it seems to me he’s doing the opposite.

          Regardless, this isn’t about guns. This is about people being molested by their government.

        • anc1entmar1ner

          I support the second amendment and the fourth amendment. I don’t know where you got the idea that I’m cherry picking. I’m just saying that the protection for the fourth needs to be a strong as the protection for the second.

  • Susan J. Barretta

    What the hell makes these officials think they have an automatic right to grope? They are pathetic for thinking so.

    This is so disgusting. I’m so sorry to see this happening to you Wendy. I will continue to loudly make my opinion to the appropriate officials.

  • Daisiemae

    This is so sickening.

  • Amy Alkon

    Wendy, thank you so much for being one of the few — way, way, way too few — to speak up.