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Types of trauma and torture

CRTV staff has provided assistance to persons who were victims of torture as defined by the UN Convention against Torture and Other Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as well as to individuals who were traumatised by war.

The majority of clients (about 60%) who were referred for psychiatric examination were victims of torture. Others were refugees or IDPs who did not fall into the category of torture victims, but who have sought assistance due to serious psychiatric and other health problems caused by other war related and post war stressors, or who were family members of torture victims.

Most of our clients are persons with multiple traumas. Over 60% were immediate victims of torture, while the most frequent other stressors were exile (about 95%) and loss of property (over 70%), loss of a close person (over 20%), being wounded in war (over 10%), in addition to experiencing many other war-related stressors.

Measuring of stressors related to war experiences, especially the experiences of torture, as well as systematic collection and analysis of such data, are indispensable aspects for a comprehensive evaluation of psychological consequences of torture. The methodological problem of measuring types of torture in the IAN Centre for Rehabilitation of Torture Victims ( CRTV ) has been overcome through the creation of a special questionnaire covering 80 different forms of psychological, physical and sexual abuse and ill treatment.

In one of IAN CRTV research study the survey was conducted on a group of CRTV clients who have been admitted to the Centre through December 2002 . After excluding clients on the basis of various criteria, variables, and lack of data, the analysis involved a total of 322 CRTV respondents (269 men, 53 women). The mean value of respondents' age was 47,33 years (SD=11.99), the scope of which was between 17 and 79 years of age.

Out of the 322 respondents, all of whom have survived captivity during wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina , only 9 (2.8%) of them did not experience any of the 80 types of torture outlined in the questionnaire. The maximum amount of positive responses towards types of torture was a total of 56, with two respondents. The average number of positive answers was 22.44 (SD=13.48).

The most frequent types of torture reported by our examinees were drastic forms of police torture during investigation. Between 70 and 80 percent of respondents states they have been subjected to beatings, threats, sleep deprivation, humiliation, blackmail and false accusations.

Forms of torture which we have denoted by the term "sadistic", are also not rare and their frequency in reports amounts to 20% in some cases; this includes: "asphyxiation", "falaka - beating on the soles of feet", "mutilation and breaking of bones". Drastic forms of psychological torture (e.g. "forcing to watch and listen to sexual abuse of family members") or physical torture (e.g. "electric shocks on genital area") appear in 5% of the cases.

Baring in mind that for the proportion of women (16.45%) in the examined sample, types of torture that are more often directed against female victims were relatively frequent and appeared in reports given by between 2% and 19% of the respondents (e.g. sexual humiliation or threats, touching of genitals, ill-treatment by using excrements, photographing while forced to pose nude, forcing to watch or listen to sexual abuse of others, rape, use of animals or objects for sexual purposes, pregnancy as consequence of rape).

You can find more about this research at : .

Another IAN research project is related to a group of refugees who were forcibly conscripted in Serbia in 1995. They are a specific group of IAN CRTV beneficiaries because the violence they underwent was carried out by their compatriots, in the form of military training. To find out more about this type of torture and its consequences you can go to the following link: TORTURE OR TRAINING? - TYPES OF TORTURE IN A GROUP OF REFUGEES FORCIBLY CONSCRIPTED IN SERBIA IN 1995 (PDF file 323 KB)



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