Freedom from Torture - Overcoming torture

Overcoming torture

Rehabilitation & Therapy

Torture is always wrong. Yet, it happens in many countries across the globe. Why people have been tortured varies: some are targeted for criticising the authorities others because of aspects of their identity. Wherever and whenever torture happens, it intends to intimidate, silence and break people. 

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Torture is defined as the intentional infliction of severe pain and suffering, physical or mental, on a person, conducted by a public official or another person acting in an official capacity. Survivors sustain serious injuries and are often forced to witness the violent subjugation of those around them.

Life after torture

The psychological impact is long-lasting and can take many years for a person to process through rehabilitation. A survivor's rehabilitation is often also hampered by the uncertainty of their present situation in the UK; many of those we work with are asylum seekers with an uncertain future.

‘They say torture is an act of killing someone without their dying.  I am still alive, but inside I feel no life. I don’t know who I am anymore.' Amir, Middle East

A holistic service

As the only organisation dedicated solely to the treatment of survivors of torture, Freedom from Torture takes a holistic approach to rehabilitation catering for the unique needs of survivors. We provide psychological therapies, support groups, forensic documentation of torture and practical help, such as legal and welfare advice, to support survivors in navigating the asylum system and accessing crucial services like housing and welfare.

Our clinicians offer a range of therapies, both one-to-one and in groups, helping torture survivors to deal with the physical and psychological trauma of their experiences. We offer specialist physiotherapy and massage therapy, aimed at managing the chronic and long-term pain that has been inflicted on the survivors. Our psychological treatments vary from client to client, depending on the client’s particular needs; we use various techniques and practices, including psychotherapy, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing), and music therapy.

In addition to the therapy groups, we facilitate a number of creative and social groups, including art sessions, football groups, baking groups, and many more. These groups allow survivors to find some respite and peace, whilst also providing them with a space to make new friends within the community, improve their communication skills, and fight against of exclusion and isolation. Our therapies, groups, and the support networks that these provide act as a catalyst and facilitator for the survivors to begin rebuilding their lives.

Language can be a significant barrier for torture survivors who are navigating complex bureaucratic systems in an unfamiliar environment. Therefore, we also provide an interpreting service that enables clients to communicate with clinicians who do not speak their language.

Life in the UK

Having fled torture, the majority of the survivors we support arrive in the UK as asylum seekers or refugees. While the immediate danger to their life may be over, living in the UK often presents a number of new difficulties. 

The asylum system

Claiming asylum can be a lengthy process and access to quality legal support varies across the UK. Furthermore, survivors often have to contend with a hostile system in which their claims are disbelieved, even when they present independent medical evidence. We've worked with people who have waited ten, or even 15 years, for a decision.

While people wait in limbo for an asylum decision, they aren’t allowed to work or claim mainstream benefits. Instead, they must live off an asylum allowance of roughly £5 a day for clothes, food and transportation. While accommodation is provided, it is often basic, can be inappropriate and sometimes dangerous, particularly for families with young children or people with disabilities.

Many torture survivors arrive alone in the UK and have to acclimatise to a new culture, country and language without any support networks. Cuts to funding for English language lessons can exacerbate the feelings of loneliness and isolation making it more difficult for survivors to integrate into their new communities. 

Poverty, isolation, living in exile in fear of being returned to face further torture and being surrounded by hostile voices in the media can all make UK life a struggle for survivors. 

Moving on

Though rehabilitation can take years, many of the people we work with do move on from their experiences and successfully begin a new life in the UK. Some former clients also seek to use their experience to raise public awareness and influence decision makers about torture and its impact. 

Through Survivor Activism, we promote survivor-led interventions in public spaces, and policy debates about torture and the rights of survivors of torture as a means of ensuring that their real, and not perceived, priorities and needs are taken into account.

Watch our video to find out more about what we do.

Freedom from Torture - What we do from Freedom from Torture on Vimeo.

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