College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Fall 11-20-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Chris Keys, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Midge Wilson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Ann Russo, Ph.D.


This study explores the community lives of immigrant survivors of torture living in theUnited States. The experiences of survivors in their countries of origin and theUnited Statesare examined by gender. This qualitative study relied on interviews with 16 survivors from multiple countries. The participation of a dissertation advisory group contributed to the study’s integrity, as did collaboration with community partners including a torture survivor advocacy group. The study found that the psychological elements of safety, trust and empowerment are important to both women and men. The lack of empowerment of people to counter claims of their government motivated these participants to advocate on behalf of human rights. Despite the undermining of trust among people because of government policies that punished dissent, men and women risked their personal safety to advocate for human rights and democracy. Nonetheless, the experiences of safety, trust and empowerment differed for women and men.