Most service providers working with torture survivors acknowledge the importance of employing an empathic approach in their daily work. However, the high caseloads, rigorous deadlines, and overwhelming circumstances under which humanitarian workers typically operate often make it challenging to employ empathy.
Miriam Potocky and Kristen Guskovict from Florida International University have studied how to gauge empathy when working with torture survivors and refugees. The article in the latest issue of Torture Journal ‘Enhancing empathy among humanitarian workers through Project MIRACLE: Development and initial validation of the Helpful Responses to Refugees Questionnaire’, is based on empathy being an important predictor of outcome; it enhances the effectiveness of interventions.
They report on the use of a questionnaire designed to gauge respondents’ level of empathy, which can be used in various settings, including as a supervisory tool to assess and provide feedback for improvement, as a screening tool for hiring staff, or as a pretest/posttest evaluation of staff training in motivational interviewing.
Other contributions in this issue of Torture Journal focus on the Istanbul Protocol (IP), including the comprehensive four-paper study ‘Incommunicado detention and torture in Spain’. The study’s authors set out an enhanced way of establishing credibility as well as the useful concept of the ‘torturing environment’ to more accurately portray the torture experience. They also demonstrated that only a few days of incommunicado detention and torture can lead to significant psychological issues.
The final study ‘A comparative study of the use of the Istanbul Protocol amongst civil society organisations in low-income countries’ addresses the IP from the point of view of the human rights worker based on interviews in Nepal, Bangladesh and Kenya. The study suggests that in certain low-resource settings the IP may not be as useful as is sometimes claimed given the need for establishing court practice and trained professionals to administer it. These findings are also the subject to debate by experts in a lively Debate section.
Contributions to this issue come from the Istanbul Protocol Project in the Basque Country, Dignity (Danish Institute against Torture) and the University of Edinburgh, Florida International University as well as members of the Independent Forensic Expert Group.
Launched in 1991, Torture Journal is the leading source of knowledge on rehabilitation of torture victims and prevention of torture.
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The full contents of the new issue are available free-of-charge at www.irct.org/media-and-resources/publications