They educated themselves on techniques of interviewing and treating torture survivors, researched the size and composition of the San Diego population of torture survivors, expanded the board of directors, developed a mission statement and three-year strategic plan, identified the vision and values of the organization, developed an effective, holistic service delivery model based on resiliency and recovery, established contacts with government on the local and national levels and began seeking financial support. During that year, SURVIVORS was awarded its first grant (and then only source of financial support) for $2,000 from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services.
With no paid staff, SURVIVORS managed to treat 53 clients in 1998. Four contracted therapists assisted survivors by providing psychological counseling, preparing affidavits to document the psychological effects of torture, and testifying on clients’ behalf at asylum court hearings. As the only organization in San Diego providing this type of treatment, SURVIVORS was deluged with requests from attorneys and other professionals seeking this support for their clients applying for political asylum.
No, all services are provided free of charge.
“Many, many educated women, innocent people are tortured – for nothing.” – SURVIVORS’ client, a Middle Eastern mother of two.
Torture is defined under national and international laws. The Torture Victims Relief Act uses the following definition of torture given in section 2340(1) of title 18, United States Code:
- “Torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;
- “Severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from
- The intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
- The administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
- The threat of imminent death; or
- The threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality
As used in the TVRA, this definition also includes the use of rape and other forms of sexual violence by a person acting under the color of law, upon another person under his custody or physical control.
They are usually referred by immigration attorneys, healthcare institutions, community organizations, or clients who have been treated by SURVIVORS.
They come from more than 80 countries around the world. SURVIVORS has seen many clients from parts of Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Latin America.
With little or no documentation, some of these individuals are immediately deported in a procedure known as expedited removal. Others proceed through a legal process that can take months or years. Many are held in prison during this time. Throughout this process, they are not eligible for government benefits of any kind, and are usually not able to work.
SURVIVORS receives funding from the County of San Diego, the U.S. government, the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, foundations, corporations, faith-based organizations, and individuals.
SURVIVORS also recruits therapists, doctors, dentists and interpreters as volunteers or on a reduced fee to help clients through their trauma. Other volunteer opportunities are listed on our web site.