Survivors of Torture & Severe Trauma (PSTT)
Psychologically and physically I was devastated. I could not sleep at night. Nightmares and fear invaded my nights. And in daytime, migraines and horrible images haunted me. I couldn’t imagine that one day, I could write about all of this… PSTT is the most marvelous thing that could have happened to me.— A torture survivor from Ivory Coast
Torture is the intentional infliction of physical or mental suffering in order to extract information or punish opponents. The aim of torture is to destroy the human spirit and to strike fear into the community. Torture includes physical, sexual, and psychological assaults. The consequences can be profound, leaving survivors with physical, emotional and spiritual scars. Washington, DC, is home to an estimated 40,000 survivors of torture.
Torture victims are often invisible in today’s society, isolated and depressed as a result of their ordeal and the considerable distress resulting from a traumatic relocation to a new country. Many survivors of torture have strong coping mechanisms and adapt well to life in a new country, needing only minimal services to overcome fear of repatriation, language difficulties or temporary economic adversity. For others, however, the impact of torture is devastating. These survivors’ normal adaptive mechanisms have been damaged by the torturers’ efforts to break down their personality and spirit.
Established in 1998, PSTT’s mission is to assist survivors of torture as defined by the Torture Victims Relief Act of 1998 and to address the consequences of these human rights abuses. A comprehensive range of services is employed to address the complex results of their torture and trauma.
The program serves over 150 survivors of torture per year. All services are free for PSTT clients. In addition, hundreds of community professionals nationwide have been trained by PSTT staff to recognize and effectively address the needs of torture survivors.
PSTT team approach to survivors’ needs is holistic, and offers a full range of services and interventions. This includes:
- mental health
- social services