CVT has helped 25,000 torture survivors rebuild their lives and become healthy, contributing members of their communities.
Maxine* was a young woman from West Africa. In her home country, a government official asked her to spy on a co-worker. But when Maxine refused, she was tortured. Although the torture ended when she fled her country and made her way to Minnesota, the memories haunted her incessantly.
In Minnesota, Maxine was too depressed and afraid to leave her home – even to apply for asylum. She was unable to trust anyone and her lethargy and fatigue were visible even to strangers. When she finally made her way to her first appointment at CVT, Maxine sobbed nonstop.
Fortunately, Maxine was able to receive both individual and group counseling at CVT. Through the group, she learned how to re-establish her health and trust in others. She began to understand that her feelings were normal and that she could heal. Most importantly, though, Maxine learned that she wasn’t alone in her experience.
As her healing continued, Maxine began contributing to the community by volunteering in a nursing home. Soon, she was hired as an employee. After being afraid to trust anyone, Maxine found the courage to not just make friends, but also begin to date. Today, she is happily married.
Approximately 40,000 torture survivors like Maxine live in Minnesota, many continuing to suffer. Survivors endure severe depression, nightmares, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder and the loss of identity and income. Many are also adjusting to a new community alone because their spouses and children are still in their home country.
At CVT, we restore hope and rebuild lives. In St. Paul, men and women receive care from our doctors, psychologists and social workers as they move towards more peaceful and rewarding lives.
In our international projects in Jordan, Ethiopia, and Kenya we provide individual and group counseling, educate communities on the devastating effects of torture and train local professionals as mental health paraprofessionals.
We’re also partnering on a three-year project to provide on-site mental health services to refugees at a primary care clinic. With this project, we’re working together to provide mental health care to refugees. By bringing these services right to their existing clinic, refugees will have new hopes for leading healthy and productive lives.
The ultimate goal, of course, is to end the practice of torture worldwide. As a rehabilitation center, we advocate for the protection of human rights. We have raised the topic of torture in the Minnesota legislature, in the U.S. Congress and in international bodies such as the UN by lobbying for the needs of our clients and of all torture survivors.
In Minnesota and around the world, CVT is restoring the dignity of the human spirit. “They told me, 'You'll be alone with this for the rest of your life. You'll die with this alone,'” said one survivor. “But when I heard about the Center for Victims of Torture, I knew the torturers had lied.”
*The survivor's name and some details have been changed to protect her identity.