The Impact of Traumatic Human Rights Violations on Victims and the Mental Health Profession’s Response
This chapter explains the growing understanding of the traumatic impact of human rights violations. This understanding has developed over time through work by the mental health and other professions with victims of such violations. The label "human rights violations" exposes the inadequacy of legalistic language that connotes the legal provisions violated rather than the enormous gravity and intolerable impact on individuals, families, communities, and even entire societies and nations. Studies conducted across many cultures further suggest that exposure to severe trauma can provoke other mental health symptoms among survivors, some of which are influenced by culture. Many had refugee camp and/or concentration camp experience, and a significant proportion was exposed to systematic torture and related trauma; the additional traumata of the exile may worsen the consequences of torture. Reports of torture were more common from regions affected by political unrest, including mass demonstrations, outbreaks of violence, killings, coup attempts, civil war, separatist or guerilla groups, and armed tribal conflict.