As President-Elect Trump prepares to be the 45th President of the United States and his transition team lays out the agenda and priorities that will define this presidential term, the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs (NCTTP) urges him to make a commitment to the rehabilitation and protection of torture survivors. Central to this commitment would be ensuring that survivors of torture who have been forced to flee their homes and seek protection in the United States have access to specialized rehabilitative care and asylum procedures that treat them with dignity and provides them with hope.
Survivors of torture report being subjected to severe beatings, rape, deprivation, humiliation, threats, sensory stress, kidnapping, forced postures, asphyxiation, burning, and witness to murder and torture of family members. These experiences commonly lead survivors to demonstrate symptoms such as chronic pain, sleep disorders, severe depression and anxiety, the inability to concentrate, and thoughts of suicide. A recent study by the NCTTP on 9,025 survivors coming for treatment in NCTTP centers documents 14 types of torture in 125 countries. A diagnostic study of a portion of these survivors shows 69% had PTSD and 52.4% had major depressive disorder.
All torture survivors have suffered greatly either physically or psychologically. In many cases, they have lost their families, homes, livelihoods, and most importantly their sense of self and security. Many survivors of torture in the United States are refugees, asylees, or asylum seekers. Clients seen at NCTTP member centers come from countries where torture is widespread and/or has been used systematically against civilians, including Ethiopia, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Cameroon, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Cambodia, and Iran. A meta-analysis of previous research studies on torture prevalence rates within refugee populations in the United States revealed that as many as 44% of refugees are either primary or secondary survivors of torture, suggesting that there may be as many as 1.3 million torture surviving refugees in the country. They are amongst the most resilient but also the most vulnerable immigrant populations in the United States.
Without the benefit of help, torture survivors can become immobilized by their distress, unable to function within their communities or contribute to their family’s well-being. Recognizing that treatment provides survivors with the environment in which to heal and contribute to American society, Congress passed the bipartisan Torture Victims Relief Act in 1998 that authorizes rehabilitation assistance to be provided to torture survivors, including treatment of physical and psychological effects of torture. Effective torture survivor rehabilitation programs are able to address a survivor’s physical, psychological, legal and social needs to reduce their suffering and restore functioning as quickly as possible. In order to address the long-term impacts of torture and the consequences that come with them, it is essential that survivors of torture are able to access asylum protection and specialized rehabilitative care, so they can rebuild their lives, restore their hope, and make important contributions to the economic and social fabric of the communities that welcome them.
The National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs (NCTTP) commends the United Nations General Assembly and President Obama for their leadership in coordinating two recent high level meetings on responding to the global refugee crisis.
With an estimated 65.3 million people forcibly displaced from their homes globally – and 21.3 million of those living as refugees – the crisis demands an immediate and international response. The gathering of global leaders to begin to tackle this pressing problem of our time is a positive step in the right direction. Nevertheless, these meetings must be more than lip service and the commitments made by countries such as the United States, Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Jordan, Mexico, and Sweden – as well as the private sector – must be followed by concrete actions that will directly impact the lives of refugees, internally displaced persons, and their host communities.
“A significant percentage of refugees are also survivors of torture,” noted Lin Piwowarczyk, NCTTP President. “For example, in the United States a meta-analysis of previous research studies on torture prevalence rates within refugee populations revealed that as many as 44% of refugees in the United States are either primary or secondary survivors of torture.”
“Experiences of torture commonly lead survivors to demonstrate symptoms such as chronic pain, sleep disorders, severe depression and anxiety, the inability to concentrate, and thoughts of suicide, ” Piwowarczyk explained. “Effective torture survivor rehabilitation programs are able to address a survivor’s physical, psychological, legal and social needs to reduce their suffering and restore functioning as quickly as possible.”
A recent study by the NCTTP, December 2015, shows that among 1360 torture survivors coming for treatment in NCTTP centers, 69% had PTSD, 52.4% had major depressive disorder. This indicates that torture survivors have high rates of impairment and need professional mental health services.
Article 14 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment provides that survivors of torture have a right to rehabilitation. The Torture Victims Relief Act, enacted in 1998, authorizes rehabilitation assistance to be provided to torture survivors, including treatment of physical and psychological effects of torture.
“As countries increase their financial and resettlement commitments,” Piwowarczyk urged, “we ask that they take into account the unique needs and rights of refugees who have been subjected to torture to access specialized rehabilitation services.”
Original photo: NCTTP
TREAT survivors to decrease the short and long term impacts of torture (both physical and psychological)...
NCTTP’s Treatment Philosophy is to first provide a welcoming, safe environment where Torture Survivors feel or gradually learn to feel safe and understood. Adequate language or language is paramount. Also paramount is a welcoming attitude of the provider, i.e., a successful communication of "I am very glad you (the Survivor) have come."
To decrease the short and long term impacts of torture, many NCTTP centers offer a full range of treatment services – medical, mental health, legal, social support and case management services, which are needed by torture survivors. Some NCTTP centers specialize in one of these services and collaborate with partner organizations to provide the other services...
Original photo: NCTTP
EDUCATE health and social service providers to ask about experience and symptoms of torture and EDUCATE...
Original photo: Biswarup Ganguly/Wikimedia
ADVOCATE for change public policy related to torture and ADVOCATE for increases in health, legal, social, and educational resources available to survivors of torture currently living in the United States...
Original photo: Bill Branson/Wikimedia
Scientifically RESEARCH outcomes of torture treatment, including reduction of symptoms, improvements in health, quality of life, prevalence and treatment approaches to traumatic brain injuries in torture survivors, and prevalence of torture survivors.
Original photo: 3268zauber/Wikimedia
The NCTTP has shown high potential to be a leader on torture treatment, research on the efficacy of treatment for torture survivors, and on community education related to torture and the needs of torture survivors, but we receive no regular funding and operate on minimal dues. You can help us provide treatment and resources for torture survivors, fund innovative research, and advocate for the end of torture worldwide. Please consider making a tax-deductable gift to help us continue this important work.
Together, we can make a real difference in the lives of torture survivors.
The following is a collection of current articles on the subject of torture drawn from the New York Times, The Guardian, CNN, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. This list is updated automatically as new articles are published.
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