Kolbassia from Survivors Speak OUT talks about survivor empowerment
Kolbassia, coordinator of the Survivors Speak OUT network, talks about the importance of survivors speaking for themselves to delegates at a meeting in Brussels. Read more about his impressions.
I was looking forward to representing the Survivors Speak OUT (SSO) network at a gathering of 58 clinicians at the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) alliance meeting which took place from 18 to 20 October in Brussels.
The IRCT is an umbrella organisation of more than 140 independent torture rehabilitation centres in over 70 countries and this meeting brought some of those rehabilitation centres together to think of ways to empower survivors of torture to speak out. That's why I was there - to talk about the SSO network.
On the second day of the meeting I spoke to participants about the network. Though there were six other presentations from different IRCT members, mine was the only one made by a survivor of torture directly. I wanted people to hear more about what it take to put this type network together, what is the work behind it, what are the essential requirements for such a network and why?. I wanted others centre's to learn from our experiences as a network so that they could think about meaningfully engaging with survivors beyond formal therapy.
Please listen to me speaking below:
As a survivor of torture and a member of the network I was surprised to find out that there are so many rehabilitation centres for survivors of torture. For me that is a clear indication that there are thousands (if not more) of survivors of torture out there who need support and that unfortunately, torture still persists. I was also surprised to find out that there were no other networks like SSO. It just made me think that the voices of survivors have to be louder and stronger if we are to really pull together against the evil perpetuators.
Personally this experience was a first for me. I had not worked with so many rehabilitation centres before. I had the impression that for some attending they had not seen a survivor of torture speaking on the panel as I had done and confidently defending the idea of survivor empowerment. It was a new experience for them, yet others were excited to hear of the existence of such as network and they were looking forward to learning more from us. For me, the thing about empowerment is to bring survivors to the point where they can decide for themselves and what they want to do with their lives rather than others deciding for them – after all, we are resilient people .