Helping Torture Survivors Heal on Capitol Hill

Helping Torture Survivors Heal on Capitol Hill

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Andrea Barron
July 01, 2013

Andrew Neylon, a summer 2013 Media and Communications student who researches torture at Ball State University, decided to join the Torture Abolition Civic Engagement Project so he could meet torture survivors and “put a personal face on torture.” Andrew, along with 33 other students and more than 20 survivors mainly from Ethiopia, all visited congressional offices on June 25th to lobby Congress with the Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition (TASSC).


Student-survivor teams asked members of Congress to support a section of the Senate Immigration Bill that proposes providing alternatives to detention for immigrants. Thousands of innocent immigrants, which include many torture survivors, are detained in jail-like facilities throughout the United States. Delegations also discussed human rights abuses committed by the Ethiopian government. Andrew shared that “it was exciting for a young person like me to have the responsibility of talking about an issue like torture on Capitol Hill and to create a space for survivors to tell their stories.”


Andrew, along with Katie Stewart from Florida State University, Cecily LaRue from the University of Southern Mississippi and two other survivors, visited the office of Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly from Indiana. Asenake Wubete, who was tortured by the Ethiopian government because he taught about ethics, free speech and human rights at a university in Ethiopia was part of the group. “I was amazed at how much Andrew and other students knew about our situation,” said Asenake. “They make survivors feel more valued because they are paying attention to us and helping us have a voice in Washington.”


Gizachew Emiru, TASSC executive director, emphasized why it is so important for survivors to have others listen to them and participate in campaigns against torture. “Washington Center students are not only reaching out to senators and representatives, they are actually helping survivors heal from terrible psychological as well as physical wounds.”


[View photos of the event on our Flickr channel]

[Read more about our Civic Engagement Projects]

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