08 May 2018
Context and culture is key to treatment - new issue of Torture Journal

Local contextual, cultural and environmental factors are key to ensuring effective rehabilitation of torture survivors. The latest issue of Torture Journal explores this central issue in Brazil, Sub-Saharan Africa and the United States.

Context and culture is key to treatment  - new issue of Torture Journal

Craig Higson-Smith and Gillian Eagle in Towards a contextually appropriate framework to guide counseling of torture survivors in Sub-Saharan Africa point out that, “…torture survivors in this region are a diverse and highly symptomatic group, often struggling to survive with their families in precarious circumstances and under ongoing threat.” Despite these challenges, clinicians continue to need a way of more systematically integrating clinical and contextual knowledge. Given that patients are living with daily stress and are under continuing threat, the high drop-out rate is not surprising, Dominique Dix-Peek and Merle Werbeloff explain in Evaluation of the efficacy of a South African psychosocial framework for the rehabilitation of torture survivors, but it does make studies on effectiveness of treatment challenging. These authors, as well as their colleagues at another treatment centre (Karen Fondacaro and Emily Mazzulla in Chronic Traumatic Stress Framework: A conceptual model to guide empirical investigation of comprehensive treatments for refugees and survivors of torture) provide a useful overview of efficacy models and frameworks they have used, and that are likely to be of interest to other IRCT centres. Importantly, cultural meaning for survivors of torture in both their original and current social contexts can meaningfully contribute to clinical assessment, as well as to the design and delivery of interventions. This is helpfully explored in Cultural Logics of Emotion: Implications for understanding torture and its sequelae, by Laurence J. Kirmayer, Lauren Ban and James Jaranson. 

Transitional Justice is addressed in An ethical and aesthetic challenge: symbolic reparation and the construction of memory. Vera Vital-Brasil gives an account of the Clínicas do Testemunho, a psychological reparation pilot project carried out in Rio de Janeiro between 2013-2015 supported by the Brazilian Ministry of Justice. Key to this paper is that individual testimony of survivors of torture (experienced at the hands of the Brazilian state during and after the dictatorship from 1964 to 1985) produces repercussions in the wider social context. 

Factor interaction in prevention of torture: Reflections based on Carver and Handley’s research by Hans Draminsky Petersen is a detailed and challenging review of the book Does torture prevention work? by Richard Carver and Lisa Handley. Amongst other things, it is pointed out that preventive measures should be seen as a complex net of different factors that interact and, together, they impact on practices in detention where torture is committed. The authors of the book are afforded a reply, with a further response by the writer of the paper, making it an interesting debate. 

Other contributions include a Letter to the Editor on Sealing the Border: US refuses asylum torture survivors. 

For more information

Launched in 1991, Torture Journal is an interdisciplinary scientific journal on rehabilitation of torture victims and prevention of torture.  The full contents of the new issue are available free-of-charge here. 

“…torture survivors in this region are a diverse and highly symptomatic group, often struggling to survive with their families in precarious circumstances and under ongoing threat.”

- Craig Higson-Smith and Gillian Eagle

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