Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress: The Psychological Consequences of Killing

By Rachel M. MacNair | Go to book overview
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Chapter 7

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NONKILLING VIOLENCE: TORTURE AND ABUSE

People who commit deliberate torture on prisoners at the behest of their governments are an obvious example of those who commit extreme violence without necessarily killing. The very training of such people can involve deliberate traumatization.

When studying this, a precautionary note is in order: Care must be taken with the sensibilities of those who advocate on behalf of torture victims. Many have expressed resentment at the idea that the perpetrators are traumatized, and perceive the very idea as a suggestion of sympathy for them. Yet the ability to understand and treat torture perpetrators has promise as one of many methods to stop the practice of torture, since it can be exacerbated by the presence of PTSD symptoms of numbing, rage, and reenactment of the trauma. Understanding this is also necessary to society-wide reconciliation efforts. With a clearer understanding, the knowledge may also have a preventative aspect, in that those who practice or order the practice of torture currently are thinking in terms of an ability to do it with impunity. An understanding that natural psychological consequences accrue, even without legal repercussions, can serve as a contribution to prevention efforts. The same reasoning applies to clandestine operatives who engage in violent activities.

A case study of a man involved in torture activities was reported from a psychiatrist practicing during revolutionary activity against the French in Algeria (Fanon, 1968). By the time the book was written in French in 1963, the author's sympathies were with the rebels. The case report gives a short mention of sleep

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