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Resources 1-22-2011

January 23, 2011

The Effects of Gender Discrimination
on Refugee Torture Survivors

An article in the September-October issue of the Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association discusses the potential contribution of gender discrimination to the development of cumulative trauma disorders, PTSD, and other traumas in a sample of 160 female torture survivors from more than 30 countries. An abstract is available online. The lead author, Dr. Ibrahim A. Kira, can be contacted online
            Dr. Kira directs Atlanta’s Center for Torture and Trauma Survivors, one of the outstanding treatment programs featured in the Refuge Media Project’s forthcoming documentary Refuge: Caring for Survivors of Torture. The other authors are Iris Smith, Linda Lewandowski, and Thomas Templin.

The Goal of Torture: Is it
Information…or Retribution?

In a somewhat misleadingly-titled article on the Miller McCune website (“For Some, Might Torture Be It’s Own Reward?), Nicholas Chang explores the motivations for officially sanctioned “enhanced interrogation” as well as the supposedly “rogue” torture exemplified by Abu Ghraib. He suggests that public acceptance of the intelligence-gathering rationale has been heavily supported by media portrayals such as the television drama “24.” He references a speech by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in which he is reported to have said: “Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles…He saved hundreds of thousands of lives…Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?”
            By contrast, Chang cites persuasive research and commentary suggesting that torture is more often about punishment or retribution for offenses – real or imagined. A study by Colgate University Professor Kevin Carlsmith and Avani Sood concluded: “What’s fascinating is that people often make claims that their moral decision is based on the potential utility the torture, but in fact it’s all about giving people what they deserve.”

“Those who support harsh interrogation make an a priori assumption that a detainee is guilty of some heinous act (e.g., killing U.S. troops), and is therefore deserving of harsh treatment…Those who oppose harsh interrogation, by contrast, entertain the possibility of detainee innocence, and thus reject the notion that the detainee deserves harsh treatment.”

Chang quotes Carlsmith as saying: “…both sides are seeking to be moral. The difference is that those who support torture focus on the detainee’s past (immoral) behavior, while those who oppose it don’t.”
            The U.S. Constitution, of course, firmly rejects torture (cruel and unusual punishment) even as a form of retribution. More importantly, it makes an absolute presumption that everyone is presumed to be innocent unless found guilty in a court of law. Dr. Carlsmith can be contacted online

Latinos Divided Over
Unauthorized Immigration

According to a recent report from the Pew Hispanic Center, “The national political backlash against illegal immigration has created new divisions among Latinos and heightened their concerns about discrimination against members of their ethnic group – including those who were born in the United States or who immigrated legally.”

[The] new national survey…finds that Latinos are divided over what to do with these immigrants. A small majority (53%) says they should pay a fine but not be deported. A small minority (13%) says they should be deported, and a larger minority (28%) says they should not be punished. Hispanics are also divided about the impact of illegal immigration on Hispanics already living in the U.S.

Compared to a prior survey, in 2007, considerably fewer of those surveyed felt the overall impact of illegal immigration has been positive, and considerably more regard discrimination against Hispanics today to be a “major problem.” In 2007, respondents felt that lack of language skills was the most important reason for discrimination; in the recent study, more blamed immigration status.
            The study, Illegal Immigration Backlash Worries, Divides Latinos, is based on a national survey of 1,375 Latino adults conducted by landline and cellular telephone, in English and Spanish, from August 17 through September 19, 2010. The authors of the study are Mark Hugo Lopez and Paul Taylor, of the Pew Hispanic Center, and Rich Morin of the Pew Research Center, the Hispanic Center’s parent organization.

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