PSTT Advocates for Refugees Through Capitol Hill

Alison Burke and Julia Oakley, staff members of the Program for Survivors of Torture and Severe Trauma (PSTT) at Northern Virginia Family Service’s Multicultural Center, visited the offices of Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner the week following International Day in Support of Victims of Torture (June 26) to:

  • raise awareness surrounding the Syrian refugee crisis,
  • promote better partnerships with refugee agencies and funding for refugee programs, and
  • increase communications between Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS) and the senators’ offices regarding refugee-related legislation.

“We want to be able to partner with refugee agencies to address issues at the onset of refugees’ arrival into the United States, rather than waiting until they become so bad or fall through the cracks,” Burke stated.

In its most recent report — the strongest data project on torture in roughly a decade — the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs recommended strengthened resources for prevention, treatment, and research of torture survivors to provide rehabilitation and determine effective intervention. Torture survivors are at a higher risk for developing major depressive disorder (MDD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than other refugees, but have shown improvement following one to two years of treatment. Research showed early treatment is a major factor in limiting depression.

Representatives in both senators’ offices were receptive to the information shared by NVFS’ PSTT staff and are eager to collaborate with the agency moving forward. Burke and Oakley also had an opportunity to attend a congressional briefing reiterating the importance of supporting services for torture survivors.

“Supporting early treatment and intervention for torture survivors will have a significant impact on the ability of our agency and others to provide stronger rehabilitation opportunities for these individuals and help them regain as much normalcy as possible,” Burke shared. “We look forward to continued collaboration with both senators’ offices to remain vigilant on opportunities to assist these survivors in a time of great need.”