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“Changeling” – The Subject of Female Disempowerment

peacecorps, memoir, peacecorpsdr, dominicanrepublic, jenniferlmyers

Changeling – The Movie

The Subject of Female Disempowerment

I watched the movie “Changeling” starring Angelina Jolie a few years ago, and the movie’s theme of female disempowerment is strikingly similar to my own experience. “Changeling” is a 2008 drama film based partly on real-life events that took place in California during the late 1920s. The events I find most similar to my own experience are those experienced by Christine Collins (portrayed in the movie by Angelina Jolie). In Los Angeles 1928, single mother Christine Collins returns home to find her nine-year-old son, Walter, missing. In an attempt to counter the negative publicity surrounding the Los Angeles Police Department at the time, Captain J.J. Jones, the head of LAPD’s Juvenile Division, brings Christine a different boy whom he insists is her own son, Walter.

Christine challenges Captain Jones with the physical differences between her son and the impostor, and obtains signed statements from her son’s teacher and dentist, both of which state the new child is not her son. In response, Jones has a medical doctor visit Christine to explain away the physical discrepancies with lies. A newspaper prints a story that implies Christine is an unfit mother. Christine then tells her story to the press; as a result, Jones sends her to Los Angeles County Hospital’s “psychopathic ward.” While hospitalized, Christine is deemed delusional by her doctor and forcibly medicated with mood-regulating pills. Christine also meets another female patient who tells her she is one of several women sent to the Los Angeles County psychiatric ward for challenging police authority, including domestic violence. After Christine was released from the hospital, she sued the LAPD twice, winning the second lawsuit. The California State Legislature later made it illegal for the police to commit someone to a psychiatric facility without a warrant, although currently California law states three (3) specific criteria, at least one of which has to be met for involuntary hospitalization.

In my experience, the evidence for my false diagnosis isn’t as tangible as the physical differences between one child and another. However, the methods are the same. Every attempt I have made at challenging the schizophrenia diagnosis has been met with lies. In exactly the same way Christine Collins was deemed delusional, I was also deemed delusional. Over the past twelve years, I have been hospitalized in psychiatric wards three different times for an illness I never had. I have been treated by a variety of psychiatrists and therapists for an illness I didn’t have, and for the past twelve years, I have taken a vast array of anti-psychotic medications for an illness I never had.

I even experienced the same treatment by the police, only I was illegally hospitalized by the Sunnyvale Police Department, rather than the Los Angeles Police Department. What striking similarities! The Wikipedia article states the following about Christine Collins’ experience in the late 1920’s:

“As women ceased to be second-class citizens and began to assert their independence, the male establishment used mental institutions in an effort to disempower them; in common with other “unmanageable” women, Collins is subjected to medical treatment designed to break her spirit and compel obedience.”

Even today, over eighty-five years later, strong, independent women are seen as a threat to the patriarchy.

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