Online proceedings for the IRCT General Assembly and 10th International Scientific Symposium - Delivering on the Promise of the Right to Rehabilitation

Time: 11:30 to 11:50

Can engagement with survivors release the empowering potential of torture rehabilitation?

Presenter(s) and co-author(s): Mr. Kolbassia Haoussou ( Freedom from Torture - United Kingdom )


Freedom from Torture (FFT) has provided services to torture survivors in the UK for 30 years, offering holistic rehabilitation, influencing and training others throughout the country. Survivor participation has been integral to FFT's work since 2008 through the formation of Survivors Speak OUT (SSO). SSO is a network of ex-clients who use their lived experiences to advocate and speak with authority on rehabilitation, challenges that survivors of torture face and how to address them. The Service Expert Panel is a board of current clients who advise FFT on how best to deliver services that match their needs.


While this paper is not based on a formal research process it is instead rooted in discussions and reflections facilitated by the SSO network on the practice of rehabilitation at FFT. These discussions have included SSO network members, current service users, and FFT staff. Collaboration between survivors and FFT staff, which forms the evidentiary basis of this paper, has proved to be a significant influence on the advocacy and policy work of FFT, particularly as our research reports and recommendations are increasingly informed directly by client expertise and experience. This paper has also been informed by the role that current service users have played in deciding the future direction and priorities of the organisation though engagement with the Service Expert Panel.

Service users have been able to influence decision-making at FFT, through their input to the Panel, based on their own experience. Clients can speak with authority on issues of torture and rehabilitation; FFT's engagement with their expertise provides valuable insight into questions regarding the relationship between rehabilitation and empowerment. Consultations with clients from centres where more work has been done to empower survivors to use their voices tended to have greater engagement rates; we explore this in our results.


For FFT, increased survivor participation has raised fundamental questions about the concept and content of rehabilitation and the extent to which it is a shared concept, including a concept that is shared by survivors and informed by survivors. For example, one of the questions at the heart of this paper is whether there is truly an endpoint to rehabilitation for torture survivors or whether we should instead think of rehabilitation as a process. And, if we agree that empowerment is an important part of the process of rehabilitation, as is suggested by the survivor led and survivor informed work at FFT, then we must question not only what services are needed to support rehabilitation but also the way that those services are delivered. Are we delivering rehabilitation services that in practice support survivor empowerment or do we instead reproduce power imbalances in ways that undermine the process of rehabilitation?

Funding & No Conflicts Declaration

No conflict, the work is funded by the charity. Trust and Grant no government funding.

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