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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 states in Article 5 that No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment Yet almost fifty years after the declaration physical and psychological abuse of men women and children around the world continues unabated and is often ignored Prevalence data collected by international organizations suggests that systematic torture is practiced in some 65 countries worldwide Amnesty International 1991 Additionally there are credible allegations of torture in another 32 countries AI 1984 Baker 1992 has suggested that of the 23 million refugees in the world outside their own countries between 1150000 and 8050000 people have experienced torture Many of these people are found among the 600000 refugees who have reached California Disabled by the aftermath of their experience they struggle to integrate into American society Without assistance many torture survivors may be unable to adapt and fully function as contributing members of the community Torture is a slow process that is designed to render its victim helpless dependent and devoid of all human qualities Torture destroys the sense of self it confuses right and wrong any belief in the stability of the world is taken away truth becomes a word without meaning Methods of torture are limited only by the fiendish fantasies of those whose business it is to break others down Physical methods include beating electric shock especially to the genitals stretching as on a rack asphyxiation techniques such as submersion in contaminated water and smothering with plastic burning blows to the ears forced standing or forms of suspension sexual assault of men and women sometimes with trained dogs Psychological methods include sensory deprivation anonymity and dehumanizing experiences exposure to the soundssight of others being tortured Physical effects are both acute and chronic Physicians may see survivors with symptoms and disabilities related to their torture experiences
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