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Victims of Torture

July 25, 1988

I would like to express my thanks to Kathleen Hendrix for her excellent article on "The Torture Network" (June 21). As immediate past chair of the American Psychological Assn.'s Committee on International Relations, I have been concerned about the paucity of information available about the victims of torture who live among us and whom we re-traumatize through our lack of sensitivity to the horrors they suffered.

To provide such information, several of the members of the committee and I are completing a book on psychology and torture. We did extensive research and found that psychologists were conspicuously absent in the role of torturer, victim and treater of the tortured. The book's main thrust is to urge psychologists to become involved in helping victims.

We were surprised to find the statement in Hendrix's article that Inge Genefke, founder and medical director of the Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims in Copenhagen, had particular "scorn . . . for doctors and psychologists who abet the torturers. . . . They can't do it (torture) today without their cooperation," she said, referring to the scientific methods and "the necessity to stop short of death."

At the risk of sounding defensive, I would point out that they must refer to physicians since psychologists are not trained in assessing when torture must stop before death occurs. Also, methods of torture have existed for more than 1,000 years and psychology has not added to the know-how of beatings, sexual attacks, electrical shocks, broken bones, severed limbs, etc. described in the article. Even sleep deprivation, mock executions, forced witnessing of others' torture or execution do not deserve to be designed as sophisticated and scientific . These measures were used well before psychology emerged as science.

Should there be evidence of psychologists' participation in the designing or execution of such horrible activities, I would appreciate the information.

JACQUELINE BOUHOUTSOS

Santa Monica

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