A Hyena Came to my Rescue

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My fellow Muslims, people who spoke the same language, had the same religious beliefs and lived in the same country, wanted me dead. But an animal- a HYENA- came to my rescue.

The hands-on nature of torture lends it particular power. The ways we can brutalize others are terrifying, and why torture is so corrupting of individuals and societies. Sometimes torture is used to attack those seen as “other” – a different faith, different ethnicity, and different sexual orientation. But in this story, one survivor describes his shock that his torturers shared his language and his faith. It is the very personal nature that can destroy a survivor’s trust in humanity. Judith Twala, MA, CVT psychotherapist and trainer in Dadaab, relays this story of a torture survivor.

The eigth session our group therapy covers the stories of survival. Among the many survivors I have listened to, the story below touched me in a very unique and special way.

“I was born in Somalia, and when war broke up in Somalia I was among the many men who went through very painful experiences. I was beaten and kicked with heavy shoes by the Al Shabaab guys. Blood oozed from all the openings in my body and I felt very weak. These guys’ intention was to leave me dead or nearly dead. Read the full story here.

“There is No Health Without Mental Health”

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Ann Willhoite, CVT International Clinical Advisor

Ann Willhoite, CVT International Clinical Advisor

On April 7, in commemoration of World Health Day, the Global Mental Health Advocacy Working Group – a new NGO coalition co-founded by CVT and the International Medical Corps and dedicated to advancing the prioritization, quality and availability of mental health services in humanitarian, transition and development settings – hosted the briefing, “There is No Health without Mental Health.”

The briefing featured Dr. Devora Kestel, the Mental Health Regional Advisor with the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization; Ann Willhoite, a CVT ; Dr. Inka Weissbecker, the Global Mental Health and Psychosocial Advisor with the International Medial Corps; and Wendy Wheaton, an adjunct professor with Georgetown University whose background includes work with UNICEF and the U.S. Agency for International Development/Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.

Continue reading

Doctors & Torture: A Conversation with Steve Miles and Rosa Garcia-Peltoniemi Part III

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Part III of our conversation with Steve Miles and Rosa Garcia-Peltoniemi about doctors and torture. In this final segment, Steve and Rosa discuss the state of accountability in the United States and lack of awareness among health care providers about torture experiences of their patients. Read Part I here and Part II here.

Where is the accountability movement in the United States?

Steve Miles

Steve Miles

Steve Miles: In the United States, right now the struggle against medical involvement in torture is entirely by NGOs, especially Physicians for Human Rights and the National Academy of Science. The American Medical Association and all state licensing boards have declined to get involved in the accountability movement. Typically NGOs go first before organized, formal institutions get involved in accountability. In this country, NGOs are naming physicians who are involved but the organized professionals, including the American Psychological Association, are doing nothing. Continue reading

Doctors & Torture: A Conversation with Steve Miles and Rosa Garcia-Peltoniemi Part II

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Part II of our conversation with Steve Miles and Rosa Garcia-Peltoniemi about health care professionals’ involvement in torture, including a conversation about how terrorism is used to create fear and to rationalize torture. Read Part I here and Part III here.

How do doctors become perpetrators?

Rosa Garcia-Peltoniemi

Rosa Garcia-Peltoniemi

Rosa: As Americans we don’t ask about the issue of social class and economic inequalities when we come across other cultures. For example, in many countries, doctors do not earn as much as physicians in the United States. I think it adds to the risk at which doctors are in this situation for collaborating with the government or not standing up for human rights. Continue reading

Doctors & Torture: A Conversation with Steve Miles and Rosa Garcia-Peltoniemi

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One of the more shocking revelations after the United States government authorized torture post-September 11, 2001 was the involvement of health professionals. Doctors, nurses and medics were silent when prisoners were abused, physicians and psychologists helped design abusive interrogations, and interrogations were monitored by health professionals.

Steve Miles, MD, is a CVT board member and expert on medical ethics, human rights and international health care at the University of Minnesota Medical School. Rosa Garcia-Peltoniemi, PhD, is senior consulting clinician at CVT and has lectured extensively on refugee and torture survivor mental health. In the first of three blog posts, Steve and Rosa discuss how health care professionals worldwide are complicit in torture, as well as how governments try to prevent health professionals from documenting and providing care to victims. Read Part II here and Part III here.

Steve Miles, MD

Steve Miles

Describe how doctors are complicit in torture.
Steve Miles:
Doctors are extensively involved in torture, routinely involved in almost every country. Sometimes they are overseeing torture, sometimes they are keeping prisoners alive who are not supposed to die. Sometimes they’re designing methods that don’t leave scars and often they’re involved in creating false medical records or death certificates to conceal torture. Continue reading

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