Pro bono medical evaluators, Dr. George Longstreth and Dr. Lydia Grypma, and the team at SURVIVORS have contributed to increasing medical knowledge about the physical effects of torture that will benefit survivors in several ways. With the publication of “Foot Torture (Falanga): Ten Victims with Chronic Plantar Hyperpigmentation” in The American Journal of Medicine, physicians in the United States will be better informed and better able to recognize the signs of torture in patients that may otherwise go untreated. The article describes falanga as a repetitive and blunt trauma inflicted on the soles of the feet as a form of torture. Falanga can immobilize victims, limiting their walking abilities for up to 10 weeks and can cause wounds that are recognizable for at least a decade. The article includes how this awareness can better assist torture survivors by:
- Providing support for survivors’ legal requests for political asylum.
The process of asylum seeking is very complex. Forensic medical and psychological evaluations that can provide evidence of the torture experienced is essential for legal asylum cases and torture survivors. In fact, the article reports that Physicians for Human Rights see an increase from 38% to 89% of asylum cases that succeed with the help of forensic evidence and SURVIVORS sees a similar rate of success with the clients we serve in the southern border region.
- Aiding physicians who care for torture survivors.
Torture survivors can go unnoticed and untreated if physicians are not able to recognize signs of torture. The article reports a study in a New York outpatient setting where torture survivors, who made up 7% of total patients, were never asked about their torture from their physicians. In San Diego, the article finds that a major proportion of West African asylum seekers have experienced falanga in conflict zones. A history of falanga can present itself as chronic foot pain and establish a link to somatic and mental disorders in a patient. Knowing what to look for assists both physician and the torture survivor in need of care.
SURVIVORS is very grateful for our physicians who sought to contribute to the healing of torture survivors, locally and worldwide, by taking the initiative to write an article about their important findings. We celebrate the publication and dissemination of knowledge that will assure that torture survivors can be better served by trauma-informed healthcare practices. To read the published article click here.