by Andrew Worth, ISCOR intern 2014
Before I began my first internship with Survivors of Torture, International I did not fully understand just how many survivors of torture resided in the San Diego region. During the time of my internship I was a student of the International Security and Conflict Resolution program at San Diego State University, and like most people I knew that San Diego had a large and thriving population of refugees and asylum seekers from all over the world. However, what I did not know was the large number of torture survivors that lived in the area. What I soon learned is that San Diego has an estimated 35,000 torture survivors that have fled from many parts of the world. Survivors of Torture, International has been able to help rebuild the lives of 2,000 survivors from over 80 countries since 1997.
These people now call San Diego their home. But they confront a multitude of problems that many of us will never have to face. The challenges that are faced can arise from access to medical treatment, legal status, learning how to get around a city as large as San Diego, and overcoming the language barrier. These 35,000 are intertwined within our communities yet many do not realize how many they number. People who we interact with on a day to day basis could be a survivor of torture. Torture survivors have many of the same challenges as refugees and asylum seekers as lives are rebuilt and a new city, culture, and languages are introduced. Thankfully, San Diego is also home to many organizations that support refugees, asylum seekers, and torture survivors. Since we have so many organizations that are able to specialize in how to best help people with specific backgrounds, providing very personalized and more humanizing experience, which is essential for the healing process.
Aside from these facts and figures what left the greatest impression on me was the amount of people who care so deeply about moving towards a world without torture and helping those who have been victims of it. That’s one of the many things that my time at SURVIVORS showed me, not only the amount of people in San Diego who are survivors of torture, but also the number of organizations, volunteers, and support groups who come together to support, assist, or lend a helping hand to these individuals. These people not only provide physical and emotional support to survivors, but also take a stance against the use of torture and its normalization in popular culture. This has become prevalent in many areas of our society from movies, video games, and books that use torture as a means to an end, and typically justifies it. What the people I met during my time at SURVIVORS represent, to me, is a community of people who are opposing this casual use of torture in our culture, calling for a ban on the use of torture, and assisting those who are survivors of torture. The revelation that so many people in San Diego, including people who are not associated with SURVIVORS, share the conviction that torture is wrong is a powerful one. To me, it shows how these 35,000 have the love, and genuine support of so many people who can provide a helping hand in their healing process.