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Chapter 1: The Torture Rehabilitation Movement

Original Publication Date: April 26, 2012
Last Updated: February 9, 2023
Estimated Read Time: < 1 minutes

Rehabilitation specialists commonly define torture as the calculated, systematic infliction of suffering by at least one person upon another. A key component is the complete physical control of the victim by the perpetrator (Nightingale, 1990). Once seen as a product of foreign totalitarianism and repressive regimes, torture is a weapon of terror used also in war, prison, and chaotic political situations. Examples may include: beatings and mutilations, asphyxiation and submersion, mock execution, electric shock, over/under-sensory stimulation, rape, humiliation and threats, witnessing the torture of others, and denial of food and medical treatment, to name a few. The numbers of victims of torture is difficult to pinpoint, but the estimate of torture survivors living in the United States is 400,000-500,000. Beginning in the 1970’s, numerous groups have developed to into networks that share support, knowledge, research, and political impact to meet the needs of survivors worldwide. While this movement to provide specialized treatment to survivors is new, it is growing as professionals become aware of the nature of torture, and its impact on the well-being of clients.

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