May 26, 2009 – People who have been severely traumatized often never fully recover. Orlando Tisum knows that. He is a survivor of torture and he has dedicated his life to helping others like himself.
Alexis Kenyon reports…
Kenyon: Orlando Tisum says he was tortured for his political beliefs 20 years ago at a prison in the Philippines. Today he still suffers from headaches, nightmares, and alienation.
Orlando Tisum: One of the results of torture is you really are isolated because of the experience. You do not trust even closest members of your family.
Kenyon: Based on his own experiences, Tisum helped found a support center for torture survivors. It’s located in an old church building in Northwest DC. The private nonprofit is called Torture Abolition Survivors Support Coalition. It has more than 600 clients. Howard Nelson, a full-time volunteer and co-founder says the hallways are usually teeming with people who need assistance, everything from emotional support to basic food and shelter.
Howard Nelson: Survivors are often told, “Even if you survive and live to tell what was done to you, no one will care.” We care.
Kenyon: Nelson says the center tries to help torture victims move forward with their lives. He recalls one client who could do nothing but sit in the corner and cry.
Nelson: One day one of the survivors says, “Hello.” And he manages a “hello” back. The next time later, he manages a little smile. Today he has a job, he works, and that’s a triumph.
Kenyon: On June 27th the Coalition holds its annual vigil across from the White House to commemorate victims and survivors of torture.
Alexis Kenyon WAMU 88.5 News.