In the 1970’s I was alarmed to hear that my big sister, Kate Millett, who had serious mental health issues which had agonized my family and her friends for many years, was organizing a group called The Mental Patients’ Project in order to claim that the psychiatric community and society were “oppressing” people and “stigmatizing them with labels such as psychotic, bi-polar, schizophrenic, borderline personalities,” etc and unconstitutionally imprisoning them in hospitals thereby violating their civil rights. We, as a family, had struggled for years with Kate’s issues, many times attempting to hospitalize her so she could obtain the serious help she so obviously needed. She was a brutal sadist, a violent bully at whose hands everyone about her suffered. Throughout my childhood I was menaced and immeasurably traumatized, as I’m sure was Elliot Rodger’s younger sibling whom he, in fact, intended to murder.
At one point, in 1973, I found myself alone with her in an apartment in Berkeley, California where she did not allow me to sleep for five days as she raged at the world and menaced me physically. I had come to Berkeley at her entreaty to appear in the UCB Auditorium as she screened a film we’d produced together in the summer of 1970 (another horror story too long to recount here) and which was, in part, a biography of my life along with two other women. This movie (Three Lives) was the very first ever produced with not one iota of male presence. Even the people who delivered food to the set had to be female and Kate was touting it as the first all-woman film production in history.
Having had my youth overshadowed by Kate’s irrationality I warily traveled West and the moment I spotted her in the airport knew I “was in for it”. As she barreled across the airport’s expanse it was clear that she was in the throes of her illness and my heart throbbed with the desire to turn and run.
During the speech after the screening she fell apart onstage before a packed assembly of fawning admirers. It was a standing room only audience. In fact, they had had to schedule a second screening at the last minute, as the response had been huge. As I sat next to her lectern during her incoherent ravings I witnessed the pained looks of confusion as they swept across those faces like a small gale whipping up across the top of a sea; at first tiny ripples gliding across the surface. They were polite until the realization took shape that she was making no sense whatsoever. People began glancing at each other, whispering a little then turning to one another with more energy, politeness gone, as some began to get up and leave. Soon many were slipping out and that was followed by a mad dash for the exits. She was babbling and shouting incoherently whilst I nodded and pretended every word made perfect sense. I could not bear to betray her in public. I sat there feeling my heart melting through my chest and draining into my belly with an indescribable sick empathy. Her humiliation was unbearable as the gale whipped up to a force ten and with one last enormous surge we were left in an empty room. The second screening was cancelled.
We returned to her apartment in relative silence. I was trapped with her in an unfamiliar place. I knew not one person in Berkeley. I was afraid to sleep for fear of awakening in a deadly pool of blood with a knife in my back. She stayed awake for five days babbling, ranting and wouldn’t allow me to sleep. She was seeing “little green men” and her eyes were literally rolling around in their sockets. Never have I been more alone and terrified. However, love and concern for her and any others she might harm prevented me from leaving. Unable to abandon her, I stayed and whenever possible reached out by phone to other family members/friends in far flung places such as NYC, Minnesota, Nebraska pleading for advice and help. One such conversation was with Yoko Ono, a good friend of hers, who called to check on Kate and from whom I tearfully begged advice.
Kate, herself, has written several books on this part of her life (Flying, The Loony-Bin Trip) chronicling the “oppressive” actions of our family, vilifying us for our deeply worried attempts to aid in her obvious sufferings. So I am telling no “tales out of school” as she herself has documented her own struggles with sanity although she consistently claimed, “mental illness is a myth”. “Many healthy people”, she said, “are driven to mental illness by society’s disapproval of unconventional behavior and by the authoritarian institution of psychiatry.” Really? Tell that to the families of the nineteen who suffered and died that Friday in Santa Barbara…..never mind, it’s all just an illusion, a myth. Let’s examine and “have conversations” about the violation of the civil rights of these nineteen innocent families. She has called me and our other sister, Sally, plus family members, cousins, etc. vicious names, demonized us, and written reams of counterfeit versions of “the truth” concerning these matters. These are published works, which rest in the Library of Congress for all time and which slander our names as people who were petty and malicious and because we “hated her politics” were trying to shut her up and lock her away. By the way, many in our family agree for the most part with her politics and so this accusation is absolutely absurd on it’s face. However, she is a famous writer and thus a recipient of the immunity fame seems to bestow.
And, speaking of the affected innocent victims: later, she wrote a book about her lesbian lover at that time. Sita was the title. This woman committed suicide in response to Kate’s “homage.”
Our elder sister, Sally, eventually came from Nebraska to the rescue, as it was imperative I return to NY to join a European theatrical tour for which I was contracted. She managed to get some temporary care for Kate, which sufficed for the moment. Within time, our mother and a lawyer nephew managed to take Kate to court in Minnesota in order to secure her “commitment.” Anyone who knows Kate Millett knows the depth of her shrewdness which she used to bring in a NY lawyer and, in her unglued state, she stood up for herself as only she can and to our great horror prevailed in that courtroom walking out, unrestrained, to spend many more years, lurching about the world to continue her damaging and irrational antics; her genius for chaos. Subsequently, she boarded a plane for Shannon, Ireland and upon arrival locked herself in the Ladies Room preventing anyone from relieving herself for twenty-four hours until the Shannon police broke down the door and committed her to an Irish psychiatric institution. She got word out to some of her Irish feminist loyalists who smuggled her out through a window and she escaped to be on the run making her way back to NYC. Many of her friends in the US were now involved and other interventions were arranged which she also managed to elude, quoting The Constitution to police and ambulance drivers. These efforts were as fruitless as Elliot Rodger’s encounter with Santa Barbara police. The police are no good at this. If only they had gone into his room; looked at his weapons and his homemade videos! Who would doubt the word of desperate, caring parents about the condition of their own child?
So when it came to my attention that as a result of these adventures she and a few cohorts had concocted a new “civil rights movement” for mental patients and in her characteristic ruthlessness was determined to “liberate” NY’s mental patients I was beyond appalled. God help anyone who gets in the way of Kate and her “righteous indignation” which had already spearheaded the militant Women’s Liberation Movement. This was to be called, “The Psychiatric Survivors Movement.”
Thus, as a result of Kate’s and her pals’ agitation back in the seventies psychiatric and mental health institutions were forever changed. This culminated in the depositing on the streets of NYC thousands of confused, terrified and seriously disturbed persons left to fend for themselves in the mean streets of The City. Most people were shocked but the hapless denizens of New York simply shrugged their shoulders and left these poor souls thus deposited to the whims and cruelty of teens, gangs and other bullies. We’ve all read the accounts of sick and helpless people being kicked about, murdered, robbed and even set on fire. Yet, due to my sister’s genius for chaos creation, no one, not even the Police Department can lift a finger of mercy to help these persons because it’s a “violation of their civil rights” to do so.
As they say, “As New York City goes, so goes the country.” And so it was as most of America followed suit and dissembled their mental health institutions and systems.
When I hear the multiple reports of this catastrophe in Santa Barbara my heart swells with sorrow over the people whose lives have been irrevocably altered by the actions of this very sick young man and when I witness (and how I do identify with) the agony of his family who tried so very hard to obtain help for him; the vivid story of Elliot’s mother going to the police passionately begging for help.
DO NOT start the usual vilifying of the NRA and the constant claptrap about guns. Half of the people Elliot Rodger killed last weekend were felled by the knife. What? You want to confiscate all knives? Or make people get permits to own a knife? Most of the people injured were hurt by his car. Shall we outlaw cars? Let’s start thinking straight: Do you seriously want to blame the instrument for the actions of the user? We may as well blame the keyboard for the poison pen letter or the telephone for the obscene phone call or death threat!!! Make no mistake about it. It’s not guns, not male chauvinism, not white male privilege or male rage. It was the deconstruction of the mental health system in our country achieved in the seventies and eighties by a mad little gang of meddlers led in their mischief by Kate Millett.
Stop saying the warning signs were missed. They were not missed. The Rodger family was begging, pleading for help from therapists, the police; just as did my own family, my mother, my sister, Sally, my cousins, nephews and I intervened our guts out to absolutely no avail. There is no system left in this country to deal with these traumas. This is a mental health issue and no more. We are surrounded by phony bleeding hearts who can coolly step over the sacred bodies of the wretchedly ill lying about our streets and sashay into a shop to eat a sandwich. Shame on all of you and may an huge share of the blame fall upon the shoulders of the perpetrators of this mercilessness, my sister, Kate Millett, and her fawning, ghoulish band of “liberating” acolytes. These people are the ones responsible for this chaos in our world.
Let the blame for these types of crimes lie precisely on the shoulders of persons who commit evil not upon the instruments used to do these atrocities. One properly armed citizen could have stopped Elliot Rodger in his tracks and saved several of those lost lives and limbs.
My purpose in writing this account is to beseech, to beg, to plead with the reader to put your thinking straight about these matters. Stop the hogwash about the instruments used whether they be guns, baseball bats, knives, or blunt instruments. Think straight: Behind each of these outrages is a sick, homicidal person hell-bent on destruction by any means possible. We need to be able to restrain such people. We need an effective commitment process in order to help the mentally sick and to serve those whom they will inevitably kill, harm or maim. God bless these nineteen families and may we all learn what we should have known all along: Something sane must be done with our mental health system!!
Last autumn, Kate Millett was inducted, along with Nancy Pelosi, into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
This article was first published, Sept, 2014 by FrontPageMag