Creating community life among immigrant survivors of torture and their allies


  • Nancy Bothne The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
  • Christopher B. Keys De Paul University, Illinois



survivor, refugee, torture, community recovery, psychological sense of community


This qualitative study describes how immigrant survivors of torture in the United States built relationships among each other to form a psychological sense of community. Eight men and seven women from 11 different countries were recruited through a torture treatment center and a survivor-led advocacy and support coalition. This qualitative study explored how participants described their experiences of community life. An advisory group that included torture survivors, torture treatment practitioners, abolition advocates, and academic experts guided the study. Data was analyzed using inductive and phenomenological theories. The construct of psychological sense of community articulated by McMillan and Chavis1 provided the conceptual framework for the evaluation of how a psychological sense of community was developed. Torture survivors with their allies formed community boundaries based on a deep understanding of the impact of torture. The safety afforded through the community boundaries was reinforced by shared condemnation of torture in all circumstances. Within the security of the community’s boundaries, members shared their experiences to enable their own and others’ recovery from torture. As community members exchanged advice and support, survivors met one another’s needs, providing physical and emotional relief from the effects of their torture. As individuals and a community, they influenced each other’s identities as survivors rather than victims. Advocating for those who remained vulnerable to torture was important to their identification as survivors. Through these exchanges, community members influenced one another and developed trusting relationships and emotional bonds. This study illuminates how community life enabled survivors to contribute to and benefit from, each other’s journeys.


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How to Cite

Bothne, N., & Keys, C. B. (2018). Creating community life among immigrant survivors of torture and their allies. Torture Journal, 26(2), 16.