Descriptive, inferential, functional outcome data on 9,025 torture survivors in the United States

A paper authored by 23 centers of the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs paints a nuanced portrait of 9,025 torture survivors living in the United States many of whom are refugees or asylum seekers.  This report documents torture in 125 countries, with findings drawn from the largest collection of data compiled and published about torture survivors across a single country. The report emphasizes the high mental and physical health consequences of torture.

Key findings from the report include:

  • The 9,025 individual torture survivors came from 125 different countries around the world.
  • Either Ethiopia or Iraq contributed the most survivors every year of the six-year project. 
  • 10 of the 125 countries account for over half (55.5% / 5,019) of the torture survivors. Those countries are: Ethiopia, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Cameroon, Uganda, Congo DR, Eritrea, Cambodia, and Iran.
  • 9 of the top 10 countries signed the United Nations Convention against Torture. (Iran did not.)
  • 87% (109) of the 125 countries in which torture is documented signed the UN Convention against Torture.  The implications of this are profound for torture prevention.
  • Survivors need both psychiatric and medical treatment. 69% of the survivors, for whom psychiatric diagnoses were submitted, had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); 52.4% had major depressive disorder (MDD). Rape was reported by 32% of female survivors.  Survivors reported experiencing an average of 3.5 types of torture. Hypertension and diabetes documentation is planned for the NCTTP’s next study. 
  • Asylum seekers, as compared to refugees at intake, had statistically higher percentages of both PTSD and MDD at intake.  Demographically, the asylum seekers were younger than refugees (37.1 as compared to 43.4 years old), and also reported more education in their countries of origin (13.8 years of education for asylum seekers vs. 9.75 years reported by refugees). 
  • Refugees showed statistically lower rates of MDD at intake if they accessed treatment one year or less after arriving in the U.S. (versus higher rates if they accessed treatment more than one year after arriving).  
  • At one and two years after beginning treatment, both asylum seekers and refugees reported increased rates of employment and improvements in their immigration status.

The study was authored by 23 of the 34 member centers of the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs, and is is published in TORTURE journal, volume 25, nr. 2, 2015

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