By Melanie Kuxdorf
Three main points to be aware of in dealing with survivors of political violence:
- Survivors may not stick out in a crowd, according to the coordinator of the Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture (VAST). VAST teaches police and immigration officers that survivors of political violence often don’t carry visible scars.
- Try to put yourself in their shoes: Bazovsky cites examples of torture that include standing up and holding your arms up for days at a time:
“They have a series of people in cells. Each of them have their arms out. There are holes in the doors, steel doors, so your arms are visible sticking out. And they have one guard who simply walks up and down the corridor. So you could have 300 people lined up in cells. And just have one guard who walks up and down. And he notes when someone’s hands slip in. Open the door, whack them around, pull them back onto their feet, and push their arms back out. They are forced to stand. Sooner or later their body gives out. And they collapse and they’re beaten and shocked and until they stand up again.”
- While the remaining physical effects may be slight, the psychological impact is tremendous. By learning to understand the psychological effects of torture, police become more aware of the dramatic consequences that some very common policing tools (the uniform, the handcuffs, the weapon) may have on a traumatized person, and they learn to tread carefully with these triggers.
According to Amnesty International, 102 countries in 2006 had cases of torture and ill-treatment perpetrated by state authorities.