The Chicago School Of Professional Psychology, Chicago, United States
This oral presentation will discuss experiences of empowerment as described by 15 survivors of torture. The participants in this study describe the way empowerment affected their family and community lives in their countries of origin and the United States.
Understanding the voices and perspectives of survivors’ empowerment may enable community based strategies of healing. Mental health professionals who work with survivors of torture often rely on strategies that empower clients to make decisions about their own lives (Fabri, 2001). The psychological empowerment that clients experience may enhance individuals’ sense that they can
regain control over aspects of their lives. Individual level empowerment recognizes individuals within contexts, and the need for individuals to develop skills, perspective and an individual sense of power (Keys, McConnell, Motley, Liao& McAuliff (2016).
While strategies of empowerment are important to help survivors of torture heal, there is a dearth of literature on community empowerment of survivors. Likewise, the effects of empowerment within a country are understudied. Yet the examination of empowerment in multiple contexts may enable healing of survivors individually, as family members, and as a community of people who have experienced torture.
This qualitative study recruited seven women and eight men who were affiliated with a torture treatment center and/or a torture survivor-led advocacy and support coalition. Participants were from 11 different countries. An interpretist-constructivist approach was used to collect, understand and report the results. Overall results indicated that the experiences of men in countries of origin enabled empowerment. In contrast, women explained how disempowered they felt within their families and communities. Again in the United States, women and men had different experiences. Men experienced disempowerment, while women reported empowering experiences. These results, based on the voices of participants in this study, will be shared and discussed.