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Asylum Fact 8

Last updated: October 6, 2023

8) Torture Survivors Can, and Do, Heal and Prosper

The journey for many asylum seekers and refugees is long and painful, from the moment they realize they can no longer remain in their homes, to the moment they arrive in a country willing (or at least potentially willing) to host them. Many clients tell CVT of their exhaustion upon finally coming for rehabilitative care. For some clients, like Kidane*, even going outdoors at all is difficult: “I was living a life of closed doors. I was isolated, always by myself.”

With the right support, healing is possible. Indeed, survivors of torture can heal from the physical and psychological wounds of torture with access to appropriate care and resources, which then allows them to rebuild their lives and further the significant contributions that several studies have shown refugees, asylum seekers and asylees make to economies and communities.

For example: When Esme first arrived at CVT, she was completely unable to speak to her counselor. When she was finally able to open up, she said that being separated from her children felt more unbearable than the multiple rapes she had survived. But Esme persevered. She continued with counseling and stayed strong as she waited years for asylum. Ultimately, she won asylum and was reunited with her children. Today she is happy, and the family is contributing to the community and building a new life in the U.S.

According to Brynn Smith, MSW, LICSW, clinic manager, St. Paul Healing Center, many clients tell CVT of the ways their lives improve after care. She said, “Clients go on to gain employment, pay taxes, even volunteer to serve their communities.”

CVT’s clients have become assets for the community—culturally, professionally, socially and economically. As they realize the positive impact CVT has had on their lives, they talk about their own efforts to help others who have been tortured, bringing in new clients and helping spread the word about life-changing rehabilitative care. The healing that survivors of torture experience negates the vicious intention of the torturers. As David said, “The torturers’ words do not limit me anymore.”

In the face of the pandemic that upended people’s way of life across the globe, resilient refugees and asylum-seekers became unsung heroes in the United States. Anne Eichmeyer, MSW, LICSW, CVT psychotherapist, worked “with a female client who was raped and tortured (detained and physically beaten) by military personnel. She fled her country for safety, securing a visa to the United States where she had a family member. . . She has waited close to four years for her [asylum] interview. In the meantime, she is working as an essential health care worker during the COVID-19 pandemic and has directly worked in nursing homes with outbreaks, continually putting her own life at risk.”

*Names and some details have been changed for security and confidentiality.

For up-to-date information about the process of seeking asylum, go to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).