News / USA

Annual Event Helps Torture Treatment Center

Annual Event Helps Torture Treatment Centeri
X
May 18, 2013 3:51 PM
Once a year, an event called Big Sunday Weekend mobilizes volunteers to help at different organizations and schools. One of the places volunteers visited this year is the Program for Torture Victims, a torture treatment center in Los Angeles. The center helps survivors heal and also provides testimony to help them gain asylum in the United States. From 2010 to 2012, the Program for Torture Victims worked with close to 700 survivors from more than 65 countries. Elizabeth Lee has details from Los Angeles.
Elizabeth Lee
Once a year, an event called Big Sunday Weekend mobilizes volunteers to help at different organizations and schools. One of the places volunteers visited this year is the Program for Torture Victims, a torture treatment center in Los Angeles.

The center helps survivors heal and also provides testimony to help them gain asylum in the United States. From 2010 to 2012, the Program for Torture Victims worked with close to 700 survivors from more than 65 countries.

For 26 years Rossana Perez has spent her free time running in a park near downtown Los Angeles.

“It really clears my thoughts and helps me to release stress,” Perez said.

Much of that stress comes from memories of prison and torture.    

“It’s very painful to, you know, talk about things...,” Perez said.

Overcome with emotion, Perez needed a moment to collect herself before continuing.

"A life can be so easily fragmented and one can feel ashamed of...," she said.

Perez came from El Salvador. In the 1980s, during the country's civil war, she was a university student and participated in demonstrations for social reform. She says she was labeled as a communist and was arrested and tortured.

“They push you. They beat you up. They touch you. They say stuff to you. They put things on your body. One day, I remember I was naked. I was with my hands tied [behind my] back, and they put this big metal thing on my head. I was feeling that my body was breaking,” Perez said.

Some torture survivors find their way to Los Angeles, home of the Program for Torture Victims, a center that provides outpatient treatment to those who have been tortured.
 
Trip Oldfield is the center’s executive director. He says this is the first treatment center of its kind in the United States.

He says many American non-profits, including his, lost funding during the economic downturn. Recent government spending cuts haven't helped.

“We used to get about 80 percent of our funding from the government sources, in 2000 for instance. And now it's down to about 50 percent,” Oldfield said.

The Program for Torture Victims depends on volunteers who donate their money and time. At this year's Big Sunday Weekend, volunteers gave the office a new coat of paint, helped rearrange a room, and put up shelves to create a food and clothing bank.
 
“Most of our clients flee with nothing. So some clients come in, and they have nothing. They have the clothes on their backs. We want to give them basics,” Oldfield said.

David Levinson is Big Sunday Weekend's founder.

”We introduce many people to organizations they might not have heard about before,” Levinson said.

The program links survivors of torture to lawyers, psychiatrists and experts on the asylum process.

Oldfield says people who are tortured are never the same, but  they can heal and lead happy, productive lives.  Rossana Perez is working and pursuing a masters degree. She also wants to go for a PhD and help her community and others in need.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More