WickedEye's Quotient

11/19/2007 at 17:03

Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood!

...Over thy wounds now do I prophesy,
Which, like dumb mouths, do ope their ruby lips,
To beg the voice and utterance of my tongue
A curse shall light upon the limbs of men
-Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene I

In my customary role of perennially didactic annoyance, I’m going to give you some information about lashing. That’s lashing, as in “being bound with one’s hands fastened above one’s head while being beaten across the back, shoulders, and buttocks”.

But first I’ll tell you why it’s relevant: A 20-year-old woman who was gang-raped by 7 men in Saudi Arabia has had her sentence doubled. Her original sentence? 3 months in prison and 100 lashes.

Yes, the rape victim’s sentence.

The woman is being punished for her lawyer’s public discussion of the case- as the Saudi court put it, “her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media”. 200 lashes are what she will now receive, and since lashing is not something with which we in this country are familiar, let me give you a rundown on what exactly is going to happen to her.

Lashing is, as I said above, a punishment in which the hands are tied above the head of the prisoner to limit movement and expose the greatest possible skin area to the whip or cane. In Saudi Arabia, the traditional whip has been replaced by the bamboo cane in the case of women, probably between 50 to 100 years ago; it was around that same time that being lashed to death fell out of favor as a punishment.

Presumably this change came about because of humanitarian considerations (yes, I realize the irony in using that phrase to describe the substitution of beating to death with beheading). Although unconsciousness from hypovolemic shock (shock resulting from blood loss) is the inevitable result of continued flogging, it takes different victims different amounts of time to reach unconsciousness, time in which they will suffer extensive trauma and excruciating pain. (Even after unconscious, one Victorian observer wrote, “the prisoner’s body convulsed at every stroke of the whip”.)

Bamboo canes are less likely to leave permanent scars than a whip. They are also used because, although they cause massive edema and hemorrhage in the soft tissues of the back, they do not cause enough blood loss to allow the victim to bleed to death in a relatively short time. It is to ensure that the prisoner does not die that a doctor is present to monitor the proceedings, that the flogger holds a copy of the Qu’ran under the arm which swings the cane (to ensure that his arm does not have momentum enough to inflict bone-breaking force), and that lashes are typically inflicted in sessions of 50 each, spaced over 2-3 weeks (with variations depending on the size and health of the prisoner).

So, now that you have a brief methodology and history, let me give you the forensic pathology of what is going to happen to this young woman.

When a bamboo cane hits flesh it causes, in pathological terms, blunt trauma resulting in extravasation- crushing of soft tissue and the rupture of small- and medium-sized blood vessels. The blood diffuses from the injury, often along fascial planes- it spreads in the direction the tissue lies- forming ‘tramline’ bruises, consisting of two parallel bruises separated by an undamaged section of skin. This unbruised strip of skin results because the impact of the cane forces blood from the vessels at all points of contact, emptying them and making them incapable of leaking blood.

The skin surface is split or torn, the force of the blow damaging all layers of the skin, so that the lacerations will bleed profusely. Ragged wound edges are also characteristic, since the skin has been torn apart rather than having been cut. The healing process may take weeks or months depending on the severity and number of the wounds, and severe scarring is not uncommon.

She’s been sentenced to undergo this 200 times.

On top of having been gang-raped.

These people are our allies.

Ah, justice.

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