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Can Engagement with Torture Survivors Release the Empowering Potential of Torture Rehabilitation?

Can Engagement with Torture Survivors Release the Empowering Potential of Torture Rehabilitation?

Survivors Speak OUT, London, United Kingdom, Freedom From Torture, London, United Kingdom

Freedom from Torture (FFT) is torture rehabilitation centre in the UK. Survivor participation has been integral to FFT’s work through the support of Survivors Speak OUT (SSO) since 2008. SSO is a network who use their lived experiences to advocate and speak on rehabilitation, challenges that survivors of torture face and how to address them.
This paper is rooted in discussions facilitated by the SSO network on rehabilitation at FFT. Collaboration between survivors and staff, which forms the evidentiary basis of this paper, has had a significant influence on the advocacy and policy work of FFT, with research reports and recommendations increasingly informed directly by client expertise.
This paper is also informed by the role that current service users play in deciding the future direction of the organisation though their engagement with the Service Expert Panel. They speak with authority on issues of torture and rehabilitation, providing FFT valuable insights into the relationship between rehabilitation and empowerment. Consultations with clients from centres where more work has been done to empower survivors to use their voices tended to have greater engagement rates; we explore this in our results.
For FFT, increased survivor participation has raised questions about the concept and content of rehabilitation. One of the questions at the heart of this paper is whether there is truly an endpoint to rehabilitation for torture survivors or whether we should instead think of rehabilitation as a process? And, if we agree that empowerment is an important part of the process of rehabilitation then we must question not only what services are needed to support rehabilitation but also how those services are delivered. Are we delivering rehabilitation services that in practice support survivor empowerment or do we instead reproduce power imbalances in ways that undermine the process of rehabilitation?