At the Side of Torture Survivors: Treating a Terrible Assault on Human Dignity

Overview

Survivors of torture and other human-rights violations from the former Yugoslavia, Turkey, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and other regions require medical, social, and psychotherapeutic assistance. Unfortunately, torture survivors often meet with silence and disbelief from others—a profound unwillingness to confront the reality of their suffering. The very nature of torture, which destroys the dignity and well-being of its victims, often makes survivors themselves doubt this reality: as a result, they feel ...

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Overview

Survivors of torture and other human-rights violations from the former Yugoslavia, Turkey, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and other regions require medical, social, and psychotherapeutic assistance. Unfortunately, torture survivors often meet with silence and disbelief from others—a profound unwillingness to confront the reality of their suffering. The very nature of torture, which destroys the dignity and well-being of its victims, often makes survivors themselves doubt this reality: as a result, they feel completely alone and may no longer believe in the possibility of human communication.

Available for the first time in English, At the Side of Torture Survivors provides an intimate portrait of the difficulties facing torture survivors and the therapists who strive to help them. Written by specialists at the Berlin Center for the Treatment of Torture Victims, the book covers topics ranging from physical rehabilitation to advocacy for those seeking asylum and justice. The authors describe traumatic aftereffects of torture such as memory loss, nightmares, and psychosomatic disorders, and outline therapeutic treatments such as dream therapy and storytelling. Throughout, the authors document their work without hiding the limits and failures that often accompany it. They tell of the difficulty of diagnosing torture symptoms, discuss the problems impeding therapeutically effective contact with torture victims, and reflect on the burdens faced by therapists themselves.

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease
At the Side of Torture Survivors is a valuable contribution to teh burgeoning literature on torture... [It] is useful for general health practitioners, as well as for those who specialize in torture rehabilitationl. It should also be informative for otehrs whoencounter torture survivors, for human rights advocates, and for the general public.

— James M. Jaranson, M.D.M.A. M.P.H.

Human Rights Quarterly
At the Side of Torture Survivors makes the effort to convey not only the profound consequences of torture on the survivor, but also the effects of this work on the care providers and on all of us as citizens of this world.

— Mary Fabri

Terrorism and Political Violence
Graessner and his colleagues have constructed a strong argument that should be studied and considered by students of politcal violence and terrorism from the clinical aspect as well as in terms of the public policy implications.

— Christopher A. Simon

New England Journal of Medicine
An outstanding collection that brings an extraordinary international perspective to the growing literature on the treatment of the survivors of torture. The great strengths of this book are its courageous depiction of the complexities of torture and the treatment of torture victims and its honest appraisal of when and how treatment succeeds or fails. The authors are clearly well acquainted with current research and with approaches used in torture-treatment centers throughout the world. What comes through in their writing is the extraordinary respect that they hold for their patients... The world owes them thanks not only for their courageous clinical work but also for their efforts to share their experiences and those of their patients with all of us in this exceptional book.

— Ellen T. Gerrity, Ph.D.

Journal of the American Medical Association
Considering the therapeutic, political, bureaucratic, and human angles and angst, I put the book down exhausted but with a sense of deep admiration for these professionals who found a calling and persevered.

— Harry A. WilmerMD

Journal of Clinical Psychiatry
[A]n interesting and helpful introduction to a topic we wish were less important and prevalent than it is.

— James W. Lomax, M.D.

London Times
A collection of essays on the nature of torture, its devastating long-term effects and the methods used to help victims, written by experts from a specialist centre in Berlin.

— David Mattin

International Review of Psychiatry
This book admirably highlights the struggles that are ignored by the media in nits everyday news, and furthermore, it exemplifies how tortured people can be helped to an extent such that they are able to continue living in relative peace.

— Anish Gupta

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Elaine M. Scorza, MS, APRN, BC (Rush University College of Nursing)
Description: This book, authored by clinicians associated with the Treatment Center for Torture Victims in Berlin, features the psychotherapeutic work done with the victims of oppression and political violence. These victims hail from 30 countries around the world.
Purpose: As described by the author, the purpose is to document the treatment center's complicated and difficult therapeutic work including the limitations and failures inherent with it. He also identifies corollary issues such as the burdens of those who aid torture victims, the difficulties associated with diagnosing them, and the impediments to the establishment of therapeutically effective contact with the victims. The purpose is well carried out with the deft use of clinical examples supporting the concepts presented throughout. Clinical examples also enhance the clarity in tracing the train of thought behind interventions performed with the victims, especially needed for the non or new professional. For the most part, the book meets the author's objectives, to the higher degree of documenting the therapeutic work and communicating it effectively to a "professional" type of reading public, and to a lesser degree to non-professionals.
Audience: The audience most appropriately served by this book is professionals and student professionals concerned with the mental health of others, in particular, those who treat torture victims. Although it is armed with plenty of bibliographical data and a glossary, non-professional readers may have to be more familiar with some treatment modalities noted, such as gestalt therapy, to better understand the rationale behind why the therapies could work. Overall, it makes for challenging and thought provoking reading.
Features: This book is a valuable view of subjects that are difficult for both torture victims and those who help them, and appeals to both the professional and the lay public. The glossary is to help those without the professional background understand the context of interventions described in the text. The editors who have written about their experiences have also described their training.
Assessment: The authors cover such issues as what torture victims experience, the proposed coping mechanisms they employ, and the various methods that the authors have used in the treatment of these individuals. They cite that the core treatment involves making the person whole with modalities such as psychotherapy, psychodrama, and others leading to the enhancement of self awareness, correction of the loss of self confidence, and the ability of the psychotherapist as a healing object to dialogue about experience. The issue of perspective in discussing the response of the helper is also highlighted. One concept presented, for example, is the general phenomenon observed by the authors, that "no one likes victims of a dictatorship." This idea is developed as part of the reason behind some of the behavior of those who treat victims. The book would not be particularly enhanced by pictures or other graphics, but may be by bulleted summary points in some of the chapters.
London Times

A collection of essays on the nature of torture, its devastating long-term effects and the methods used to help victims, written by experts from a specialist centre in Berlin.

— David Mattin

Journal of the American Medical Association

Considering the therapeutic, political, bureaucratic, and human angles and angst, I put the book down exhausted but with a sense of deep admiration for these professionals who found a calling and persevered.

— Harry A. WilmerMD

New England Journal of Medicine

An outstanding collection that brings an extraordinary international perspective to the growing literature on the treatment of the survivors of torture. The great strengths of this book are its courageous depiction of the complexities of torture and the treatment of torture victims and its honest appraisal of when and how treatment succeeds or fails. The authors are clearly well acquainted with current research and with approaches used in torture-treatment centers throughout the world. What comes through in their writing is the extraordinary respect that they hold for their patients... The world owes them thanks not only for their courageous clinical work but also for their efforts to share their experiences and those of their patients with all of us in this exceptional book.

— Ellen T. Gerrity, Ph.D.

Human Rights Quarterly

At the Side of Torture Survivors makes the effort to convey not only the profound consequences of torture on the survivor, but also the effects of this work on the care providers and on all of us as citizens of this world.

— Mary Fabri

Journal of Clinical Psychiatry

[A]n interesting and helpful introduction to a topic we wish were less important and prevalent than it is.

— James W. Lomax, M.D.

Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease

At the Side of Torture Survivors is a valuable contribution to teh burgeoning literature on torture... [It] is useful for general health practitioners, as well as for those who specialize in torture rehabilitationl. It should also be informative for otehrs whoencounter torture survivors, for human rights advocates, and for the general public.

— James M. Jaranson, M.D.M.A. M.P.H.

Terrorism and Political Violence

Graessner and his colleagues have constructed a strong argument that should be studied and considered by students of politcal violence and terrorism from the clinical aspect as well as in terms of the public policy implications.

— Christopher A. Simon

International Review of Psychiatry

This book admirably highlights the struggles that are ignored by the media in nits everyday news, and furthermore, it exemplifies how tortured people can be helped to an extent such that they are able to continue living in relative peace.

— Anish Gupta

Desmond Tutu
This book documents the experiences of a group of caregivers helping victims to learn to trust and love themselves and those around them. I commend it to all those who are involved in this important ministry.
Francis Mark Mondimore
An engrossing and vivid account of difficult work done by a team of very dedicated professionals. Individuals interested in global human rights issues will want to read this book.
Booknews
Workers at the Treatment Center for Torture Victims, also known as the Berlin Treatment Center, describe and evaluate their first four years, since 1992, of treating torture survivors from around the world. They tell of the burdens imposed on those providing aid, and about the difficulty of diagnosing the symptoms of torture and of establishing therapeutically effective contact with torture victims. The original berlebenden, Unterst<:u>tzung, und Therapien/> was published by C. H. Beck'sche Verlangsbuchhandlung, Munich, in 1996. The translation is by Jeremiah Michael Riemer. There is no index. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

3 Stars from Doody
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801866272
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

Sepp Graessner, M.D., is cofounder of the Berlin Center for the Treatment of Torture Victims and is in charge of forensics at the center. He has worked in private practice, emergency medicine, and tropical medicine. Norbert Gurris is a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist who worked for the Berlin Center for the Treatment of Torture Victims from 1992-1999. He has practiced in Berlin for more than twenty-five years. Christian Pross, M.D., is cofounder and medical director of the Berlin Center for the Treatment of Torture Victims. He is the author of Cleansing the Fatherland: Nazi Medicine and Racial Hygiene, and Paying for the Past: The Struggle over Reparations for Surviving Victims of the Nazi Terror, also available from Johns Hopkins.

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Table of Contents

Contents:



1 Foreign Bodies in the Soul

2 Psychic Trauma through Torture - Healing through Psychotherapy?

3 The Vestige of Pain: Psychosomatic Disorders among Survivors of Torture

4 "In My Fingertips I Don't Have a Soul Anymore": Physical Therapy with Survivors of Torture - Insights into Work with Concentrative Movement Therapy

5 Frozen Lake: Gestalt Therapy Dreamwork with Torture Victims

6 The Healing Power of Storytelling: Learning from Scheherazade

7 "Every Perpetrator's Acquittal Costs Me Two Weeks' Sleep": How Societies and Individuals Cope withTrauma as Illustrated by the German Democratic Republic

8 There, Where Words Fail, Tears Are the Bridge: Thoughts on Speechlessness in Working with Survivors of Torture

9 Two Hundred Blows to the Head: Possibilities and Limits in Evaluating the Physical Aftereffects of Torture

10 "Like a Drop of Water": Everyday Life for Asylum Seekers and Social Work with Survivors of Torture

11 Everything Forgotten! - Memory Disorders among Refugees Who Have Been Tortured

12 What Does This Work Do to Us?

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