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The Paradox of Psychological Consequences of Torture

The psychological consequences of torture present two paradoxes. First, psychological wounds are the most personal, intimate, and enduring consequences of torture and can affect not only the victim but also his/her family and community. Yet these scars are invisible; there are no objective signs, measurable parameters, lab tests or x-rays that are able to document psychological wounds. The goal of torture is not to simply physically incapacitate the victim, but to reduce the individual to a position of extreme helplessness and distress and break his/her will. At the same time, torture sets horrific examples to those that come in contact with the victim and can profoundly damage intimate relationships between spouses, parents and children, and other family members, as well as relationships between the victims and their communities. In this way, torture can break or damage the will and coherence of entire communities.

The second paradox is that despite the fact that torture is an extraordinary life experience capable of causing a wide range of psychological suffering, extreme trauma such as torture does not always produce psychological problems. Therefore, if an individual does not have mental problems, it does not mean that he/she was not tortured. When there are no physical or psychological findings, this does not refute or support whether torture had actually occurred.