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Notes from the Ground

CVT World, Apr. 2024

Published April 18, 2024

Welcome to the April 2024 issue of CVT World, CVT’s periodic compilation of the latest news, stories and public activities from our team.

Serial Season 4: Guantánamo

The hugely popular podcast “Serial” has launched its fourth season, which takes an in-depth look at the Guantánamo detention facility and the experiences of detainees and others who spent time there. Alison Beckman, CVT senior clinician for external relations, served as an advisor in the development of this series, discussing the effects of torture on detainees and implications for healing. The New York Times, which owns Serial, announced the new series and thanked Ally in this article. In addition, Scott Roehm was quoted in this article in The Week, noting a lack by the Biden administration to prioritize closing Guantánamo. Read more about Guantánamo.

A New Study: Trauma-Informed and Culturally-Responsive Bodywork

Chronic pain creates challenges for many survivors of torture on a daily basis. To help address the significant impacts of chronic pain, CVT launched a study called Trauma-Informed and Culturally-Responsive Integrated Massage Therapy (TCI-Massage). Dr. Jennifer J. Esala, CVT senior researcher, Sarah Lawrence, CVT program evaluator and Sara Phillips, CVT social worker & massage therapist, wrote this article about the approach, which is designed to incorporate cultural and language needs as well as sensitivity to clients’ trauma histories. They write, “Massage and bodywork have been found to reduce pain in both general populations and groups that have experienced trauma, including refugees, war veterans and survivors of interpersonal violence.”

U.S. Congress Raises Concerns about Israel’s Use of U.S. Arms

CVT endorsed this letter organized by U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar to Secretary Austin, Secretary Blinken and Director Haines, expressing concern about use of U.S.-origin weapons by Israel under the National Security Memorandum 20 (NSM 20), which requires full compliance with international law. The authors write about circumstances which may violate humanitarian law and contribute to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The letter was covered here in The Intercept and CVT was mentioned as an endorsing organization in this coverage in Foreign Affairs.

CVT Client Calls for Change for Refugees in Thailand

“I am very hopeful for our people, our country. I know that so many people are working and trying to make things better after decades of conflict,” writes Mr. Owl (a pseudonym), who is a writer, artist and client seen at CVT’s Healing Hearts program in Minnesota, U.S., in this article. He writes about his personal journey and about the change he wants to see for people who are still facing difficult circumstances.

VocalEssence Gives Performance to Benefit Center for Victims of Torture

Noted teen choral group VocalEssence Singers of This Age gave a concert to benefit CVT as part of the Prospect Park United Methodist Church Community Concert Series in Minneapolis. The chorus is led by G. Phillip Shoultz, III, and they describe themselves as “expanding what it means to be a choir and, encouraging a wider circle of participation in the artform.” We are grateful for their creativity and generosity! Read more about the group here.

CVT Ethiopia Client’s Story Covered by UN Volunteers Page

The story of a client who came to CVT Ethiopia in Alemwach for care was covered in this article titled, “Demystifying Mental Health,” published by the UN Volunteers agency within UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The author, Lynn Karanja, is an associate mental health and psychosocial support officer with UNHCR, and she writes about the work done by Flora (a pseudonym) with CVT and the UNHCR working group, noting the improvements she made, including improved feelings and relationships and enrolling her children in school.

Letter from a Battleground State: Fighting for the Rights of Immigrants in Georgia

As the legislative session ends in Georgia, U.S., Darlene Lynch, head of external relations for CVT Georgia, writes about the challenges and policy wins in the work to support refugees in the state this year. Looking ahead in the face of setbacks as well as gains, she writes, “We’ll strengthen the bonds we created with other immigrant advocacy groups and find new ways to work together to protect the rights of the communities we serve.”

We’ll strengthen the bonds we created with other immigrant advocacy groups and find new ways to work together to protect the rights of the communities we serve.”

Darlene Lynch, head of external relations for CVT Georgia

Celebrating Human Rights and Mental Health Efforts During Arab American Heritage Month

To honor Arab American Heritage Month, CVT published this article by Zuri White-Gibson, CVT communications strategist, highlighting a number of groundbreaking individuals. Through the month, we’re showcasing the work of human rights and mental health experts whose work has made an impact in the United States and globally.

Oposition to Inclusion of Myanmar Junta in Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Meetings

Dr. Simon Adams, CVT president and CEO, was quoted in this article about developments in Southeast Asia and growing outrage at New Zealand for including the Myanmar junta in upcoming ASEAN meetings. Simon commented, “New Zealand should not allow Myanmar’s military junta to attend the upcoming meeting in Wellington. They are diplomatic representatives of a corrupt and illegitimate dictatorship that is committing atrocities against their own people.”

Trans Day of Visibility: Refocusing the Narrative of Trans Mental Health Support

To honor the international Trans Day of Visibility, CVT published this article about how mental health care plays out in the experiences of trans individuals seeking care, as well as those who are medical professionals. Author Andreu E. Gibson writes, “For many in the trans community, it’s not just about being visible, it’s about feeling safe and supported in that visibility. Mental health support spaces are no different. For healing to be a possibility, we need spaces where we can show up authentically.”

For many in the trans community, it’s not just about being visible, it’s about feeling safe and supported in that visibility.”

Andreu E. Gibson, contributing writer

New York Times: “Display of Battered Men Was Russia’s Warning to the Public, Analysts Say”

In the wake of the terror attack in Russia, Scott Roehm, CVT director of global policy and advocacy, spoke to the New York Times about Russia’s displaying images of the suspects with signs of having been tortured. He noted that along with the fact that torture is illegal under international law, testimony derived from torture is unreliable and unusable in court, which will pose a challenge for Russian authorities. “Torturers don’t spend a lot of time thinking through the various consequences of their actions,” he said in the above-titled piece. Read the article here.

CVT Supports NGO Submission to Ensure Humanitarian Aid Reaches People in Gaza

CVT signed in support of this submission from humanitarian organizations which provide aid in Gaza, calling for immediate action as part of National Security Memorandum 20. The authors write, “Given the tempo of the conflict in Gaza, rapid deterioration in the humanitarian crisis, and impending famine, we urgently request that the U.S. government speed up its assessment timeline and demand full and unimpeded humanitarian access into and across Gaza, adherence to international humanitarian law, and an immediate and sustained ceasefire.”

Annual Conference: The National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs

This year saw another excellent conference of the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs (NCTTP), this year in Washington, D.C. This U.S.-based consortium meets each year to present new interventions and actions in the field. This year we were pleased our psychotherapist colleagues, Cecil Walker, LMFT, and Charissa Cable, MSW, LICSW, could join the consortium alongside several of our partners to give a thorough and impactful presentation on Learnings from Developing Group Interventions with Underserved Populations: Children affected by Intergenerational Trauma and LGBTQ+. Check out photos from the session here.

Support and Training for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Workers in Ethiopia

The clinical team at CVT Ethiopia developed, tested and piloted new training on mental health and psychosocial support for professionals working with people who have experienced traumatizing situations. The team was amazed by the huge response from participants who signed up for the pilot run. “Our partner agencies recognize the need for training and want to ensure their workers have the skills that will best support their beneficiaries,” said Sandra Githaiga, clinical program director for CVT Ethiopia. Read the article here.

Activists Adapted and Fostered Participation Throughout the Pandemic

Four years after the COVID-19 pandemic impacted people around the world, the New Tactics team considers how the epidemic impacted activism. Grace McDonough, New Tactics fellow and student, explored the question in this article: “Pandemic Protests: Remembering to Reimagine.” She found that activists adapted their work using new and proven tactics, writing that changes from the pandemic “ . . . did not halt global activism despite organizers’ dependence on gathering people together in common cause. Rather, the pandemic seemed to witness a flourishing of participation in social justice and human rights movements.”

Working in Coalition with Partners

Working with partners brings strength to CVT’s policy advocacy. In recent weeks, we participated in numerous actions that support survivors of torture. Below are some of these coalition and partner actions.

  • In an effort to bring about the closure of Guantánamo detention facility, CVT signed this petition to Tina Kaidanow, special representative at the U.S. State Department. The authors state: “We oppose the unconstitutional use of indefinite detention and call for the State Department to financially and diplomatically address the concerns of former detainees.”
  • CVT joined immigration coalition partners in signing this letter to leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, calling for funding to support due process rights for immigrants who need to pay for legal representation when faced with deportation.
  • In coalition with partner organizations, CVT applauds the reintroduction of the Stateless Protection Act by Sen. Ben Cardin and Rep. Jamie Raskin. This bill will provide protections for the more than 200,000 people in the U.S. who are today without a country as a result of global conflicts. Read more here.
  • CVT joined NGOs in signing this statement to U.S. congressional leaders, urging them not to increase funding for immigration detention as part of the spending bill. The authors write, “As decades of data show, increasing the use of detention does not in any way solve the challenges at the border nor does it impact the number of people coming to seek safety in the United States.”
  • CVT signed this letter to President Biden and his administration, urging him to support the End Solitary Confinement Act, which would end the practice in U.S. prisons as well as immigration detention. The authors write that “the use of solitary confinement in immigration detention certainly meets the definition of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under international law, and in multiple cases documented in the report, crosses that threshold to constitute torture. It is far past time to end it.”
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