PSTT Hosts a Successful Conference
NVFS Program for Survivors of Torture & Severe Trauma Hosts a Successful Conference
On Tuesday June 21, 2011 in partnership with the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC), the NVFS Program for Survivors of Torture and Severe Trauma (PSTT) successfully held the First Annual Greater Washington Network Conference: “Creating a Coalition of Care for Trauma and Torture Survivors.” The conference was organized to address the need for, and begin to establish, increased communication and collaboration among service providers. The conference was an immense success. More than 150 people attended, including approximately 30 survivors. Serving as a centralized networking and psychoeducational forum, the conference combined didactic presentations with survivor testimony as well as interactive sessions.
The conference invited expert panelists in the fields of medicine, psychiatry, psychotherapy/social services, and law to present. The focus of each presentation was on key information relevant to working with survivors in various capacities, as well as on best practices and standards of care. Specifically, the presentations included:
1) “The Power of Medical Evaluations in Asylum Applications,” by Coleen Kivlahan, MD, Jeanie Schmidt Free Clinic;
2) “Looking Beyond PTSD – Emerging Practices for Treating Psychiatric Sequelae of Torture,” by James Griffith, MD, Director of the Psychiatry Residency Program and Associate Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, George Washington University;
3) “Psychosocial and Psychotherapeutic Approaches to Victims of Torture,” by Peter Polatin, MD, Health Program Manager, International Department of the Rehabilitation and Research Center for Torture Victims; and
4) “Legal Services: Best, Promising, and Emerging Practices,” by Leslie Velez, Esq., Director, Access to Justice, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. The multi-disciplinary and expert nature of the panel allowed for breadth and depth of shared knowledge as well as rich discussion.
In addition to the panelists, the conference welcomed Mr. Jacob D. Massaquoi, II as the keynote speaker to address life after torture and coalition-building. Mr. Massaquoi, II President, Holistic Peace Movement and Founder of African Refuge, Inc. is a war trauma and torture survivor from Liberia. Survivors from various other countries also took the stage and spoke about their lives, sharing their thoughts, feelings, and views about their experiences. Their testimony served to highlight the realities of human abuses as well as stress human resilience and the importance of advocacy. Through their powerful stories of trauma and healing, survivors revealed the central role of agencies such as PSTT and TASSC in their ability to reestablish their identity and rebuild their lives. Importantly, their voices reiterated the critical need for a further integrated system of care.
With its focus on collaboration, the conference allowed for professionals from diverse settings to network with one another for a common purpose – to provide quality and holistic care for those who have suffered trauma and torture, and to continue the fight to end the practice of torture around the world.