The Killing of Susan Kelly

Image Description: a print of a black shadowy outline of a person screaming with their hands on either side of their face clawing at their cheeks. The print also has overlapping layers of the same outline in red and blue. The shadowy outline is in front of a background which is wrinkeled paper. The graphic is next to text that reads “electroshock is a crime against humanity.”

By: Dorothy Washburn Dundas

The dark-suited man slithered, 

Shock box in hand,

To our bedsides, four girls, innocent, naked. 

Waiting….waiting…. waiting, 


One by one. 

Zapping currents through us, 

Young bones cracked; brains bruised 

By his cold-fingered electrified touch. 

Crime completed, 

In collusion with white-skirted nurses. 

The limb holders, 

He slinked back into the early morning frost, Steaming hot coffee in hand. 

Leaving us quieted, flat as pancakes. 

And Susan, 

The soft white sheet covering her, 

Did not move at all. 

His shocks had stolen her, skin and bone, 

That beautiful flaxen-haired child. 

At seventeen, 

Silencing her questioning stream 

Of daily chatter, her ballet dreams. 

In her, innocence she had spoken for me, 

Muted and crashed by endless sizzlings. 

Inches away, I did not hear her silent call 

As she slipped into death’s embrace, 

Beyond – 

Where her little fingers hold the violin 

strings to my heart, 

Playing them like a marionette 

In the gentle breezes of heaven. 

Dorothy Dundas (she/her) is a White person with light red hair. She is standing in front of a white background wearing a grey and black stripped scarf and stone earrings.

Dorothy Washburn Dundas

While institutionalized for three years as an adolescent in the early 1960s, Dorothy was labeled a ‘schizophrenic” and forced to undergo 40 combined insulin coma-electroshock “treatments.” She experienced and witnessed many atrocities and believes that luck, determination, her own anger, and one compassionate advocate were her best friends on the road to her survival. Dorothy’s story, “The Shocking Truth,” appears in Beyond Bedlam, and her writings on abusive psychiatric practices have been published in The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, The Detroit Free Press and The Miami Herald. 

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