How can signs of deliberate physical injury be detected years after they were caused? What are the physical and psychological ramifications of torture for its victims? How can we cope with the moral dilemmas raised by treating captives and prisoners? Physicians who attended the first workshop in Israel devoted to locating and treating torture victims share their insights.
“I must admit that the issue of torture kind of passed me by,” says Dr. Revital Arbel, a senior gynecologist at a hospital in Jerusalem. “It was always out there somewhere, but I guess that I preferred not to see it. Then I monitored the pregnancy and labor of an Eritrean refugee who was raped in Sinai. Although I have been involved in these issues for years, working with victims of sexual assault, this was the saddest birth I have ever seen. I will never forget the sadness in this mother’s eyes when her son was born.
“I monitored the entire pregnancy not knowing she had been raped. When she came in to deliver the baby she was accompanied by an interpreter for the first time, and they told me the story. Slowly the things she had been through in Sinai began to sink in. Like other refugee women imprisoned in Saharonim, she had not been able to undergo a termination of pregnancy at an early stage. It’s hard to realize that women who arrive there pregnant are not given the opportunity to undergo termination. This causes appalling suffering. However late it is, it is always possible to stop a pregnancy in these circumstances – anything rather than see the face of a woman giving birth to her rapist’s child.”
Just as Arbel realized that eventually this suffering would not forever pass her by unnoticed, she received an invitation to participate in the first-ever training program in Israel for physicians and psychologists teaching ways to locate and diagnose torture victims. She accepted the invitation and became one of the first 16 participants to undergo training from foreign experts in working according to the Istanbul Protocol. The workshop is an ongoing project of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), in cooperation with the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)....Read More