The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

December 9, 2013

Helping immigrant victims of torture heal

(Continued)

“I see my kids have a future here. I see meaning to life that wasn’t there before.”

The Office of Refugee Resettlement established the torture survivor program to bring emotional care to refugees, asylees and other immigrants arriving in the U.S. with psychological and physical scars. Each year, it distributes $11 million to agencies across the country working to help make them whole.

The program is new to Seattle, which received its first round of funding a year ago and where some 250 victims from nearly 40 countries are being helped.

“All of a sudden, we were hearing more torture-survival stories coming out of the Middle East — people who had been kidnapped and held in captivity,” said Beth Farmer, program director of International Counseling and Community Services, the grant applicant.

“We knew about the violence, the war ... so we started asking our clients.”

And the stories they would tell.

Refugees, immigrants and asylees, men and women, they speak of being starved, raped, hacked, humiliated, beaten, deprived of sleep, subjected to electric shock, simulated drowning, confined to impossibly small spaces, forced to watch their own children die.

For many, the idea of talking to strangers about what happened to them is foreign. In some cultures, Farmer said, “mental health means the same as crazy. There’s no mind map for it.”

While the three agencies over the years had been referring torture patients among them, the project formalized that relationship and got practitioners to go deeper to ask patients questions they weren’t asking before.

Even doctors at Harborview’s International Medicine Clinic, which for decades had been treating some of these patients — including the first wave of refugees from Southeast Asia — didn’t always know about the torture in their past.

At Harborview, “We are used to thinking of gunshot victims, of life on the streets, and not necessarily of this kind of trauma,” said clinic director Carey Jackson.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • 1 hurt in fiery Twin Cities interstate crash ROSEVILLE, Minn. (AP) — Authorities say one person was hurt in a fiery crash involving four vehicles on a Twin Cities interstate. The crash on Interstate 35 brought morning traffic to a halt during a rainy commute. The Minnesota State Patrol says a

    July 25, 2014

  • Black box found at Air Algerie wreckage site PARIS (AP) — French soldiers recovered a black box from the Air Algerie wreckage site in a desolate region of restive northern Mali on Friday, officials said. Terrorism hasn't been ruled out as a cause, although officials say the most likely reason f

    July 25, 2014

  • Ukraine reports overnight rebel attacks on border MOSCOW (AP) — The Ukrainian army on Friday claimed that soldiers came under artillery fire from the Russian side of the border overnight and were attacked by rebels in several other places in the restive east. Ukrainian forces are trying to close in

    July 25, 2014

  • Deal still elusive for Gaza cease-fire CAIRO (AP) — Turbulent negotiations to broker a temporary truce in the Gaza Strip are continuing against the backdrop of fresh Israeli attacks on Palestinian militants. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met twice Friday in Cairo with U.N. chief Ban

    July 25, 2014

  • Transcript shows concerns during Arizona execution FLORENCE, Ariz. (AP) — U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake was attending a ceremony for a judicial colleague when he received an urgent — and unusual — request: Lawyers for a condemned inmate wanted him to stop an execution that didn't seem to be workin

    July 25, 2014

  • Sniper-Author-Ventura [Duplicate] Day 3 of deliberations ends in Ventura lawsuit Jury has deliberated 19 hours

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Man accused of stealing from group HASTINGS (AP) — An Apple Valley man is charged with five counts of theft for allegedly stealing more than $113,000 from a Rosemount youth athletics group. Sixty-two-year-old Robert Steven Reischauer was the former finance manager of the Rosemount Ar

    July 24, 2014

  • Sanders offers lower-cost bill to reform VA Bill would allow vets to go to private doctors

    July 24, 2014

  • Wetland Loss [Duplicate] Report says Prairie Pothole region losing wetlands BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Federal officials and conservationists say a recent report detailing wetland losses in the five-state Prairie Pothole Region over the past decade highlights the need for increased protection for the region that provides breeding

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • France: Air Algerie flight vanishes over N Mali ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — An Air Algerie flight carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algeria's capital disappeared from radar early Thursday over northern Mali, the plane's owner and a French government official said. Air navigation services lost

    July 24, 2014