Survivors International was founded in 1990 by a clinician who felt compelled by a deep sense of betrayal by his own profession when he read a medical article about doctors’ and psychologists’ roles in designing and carrying out torture in many parts of the world. We grew out of this need to serve the population of refugees and immigrants who had survived torture and/or war trauma in their home countries. While the torturer’s aim is to destroy the victim by inflicting excruciating physical pain and terrifying mental abuse, the goal of Survivors International is precisely the opposite: to strengthen and rebuild a sense of self and trust in humanity. We are a multi-disciplinary network of professionals and volunteers from the fields of medicine, psychology, social work, public health, and human rights dedicated to helping those who have been affected by torture to pick up the pieces after all sense of basic trust has been lost. Through this network Survivors International provides necessary services to survivors at minimal or no cost. Survivors International also provides training programs for individuals and agencies working with refugees and immigrants to improve their understanding of the experience of torture and its psychological impact on the person, so that treatment interventions can be optimized.
Torture victims come to Survivors International because they are in pain for reasons that are unique to their torture. They do not feel physically well. Their joints hurt where they were hung from the ceiling; their muscles are sore where their legs were stretched; their noses are misshapen; and teeth are broken where rifle butts were taken to their faces. They have headaches, trouble sleeping, nightmares, and memories which flood their thoughts. These are the symptoms of trauma we wish to heal and ultimately eliminate.