The Law and Torture

making scaring people a most serious crime

Stephen Yearwood
2 min readMay 13, 2024
Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

We usually think of torture in one of two ways. It is something in which organizations engage in order to extract information or ‘confessions’ from people while intimidating other possible ‘enemies’ or it is something deranged people do to other people for pleasure. The former are normally thought of as possibly including both physical and mental torture, while the latter is usually thought of as being ongoing physical abuse of some kind (or kinds).

Of course, it is not possible to inflict physical torture without including a strong element of mental torture with it. It is possible to engage in mentally torturing someone without inflicting the the slightest bit of physical discomfort, much less pain, on that person.

Mental torture is purposefully inducing fear in a person. It involves the threat of harm. It can be a threat to a person’s physical self or to other people or even material things that are part of a person’s life. That harm need not be specified in any way to be a form of torture. Indeed, less specificity might possibly increase the fear a person would experience.

To my mind, torture of any kind is a serious form of harm. Only rape and murder are worse forms of harm, as far as I am concerned — and rape is, for that matter, a form of torture in itself.

Rape is already against the law. Physically confronting a person, stalking (physically or via media), or verbal threats of harm (oral or written or using other imagery), or even harassment without an explicit threat of harm are all forms of torture that need to be deemed an offense as serious as rape is.

Torture is the intentional violation of any sense of personal security or well-being that the victim could have, a conscious effort to bring fear of harm into a person’s life. It warrants serious punishment, for even a ‘first offense’.



Stephen Yearwood

unaffiliated, non-ideological, unpaid: M.A. in political economy (where philosophy and economics intersect) with a focus in money/distributive justice