Despite the high prevalence of sexual torture and its close link with gender, little work has been published on refugee torture survivors from Muslim-majority countries. The aim of this project was to introduce a gender-critical framework, that draws on post-modern and post-colonial feminism, to the study of sexual torture in terms of its operationalization and psychological impact in Iranian, Afghan, and Kurdish refugees in the United Kingdom (UK).
This exploratory qualitative research was conducted in collaboration with two voluntary organizations in the UK. Mental healthcare providers (HCPs) were invited to participate through convenience sampling from amongst their staff as well as from community mental health services. Torture survivors were recruited through snowball sampling.
The study consists of two parts: 1) semi-structured face-to-face interviews with a total of eight experts (doctors and therapists) and three torture survivors; followed by 2) a focus group with four experts to discuss the emerging results from the interviews and together reflect on the politics of gender and sexuality in the context of torture (‘assisted sense-making’).
A thematic gender-critical analysis was performed for the qualitative data. Our findings from interviews with (only Kurdish) torture survivors and HCPs suggest that gender mediates the impact of sexual torture at the intersection of gender, cultural norms, forms of social inequality, and body politics. The conclusions of the study will have implications for health services by deepening our understanding of variables that intersect in an entangled and unpredictable network.
Dehghan R, Osella C. The psychological impact of sexual torture: A gender-critical study of the perspective of UK-based clinicians and survivors. Transcult Psychiatry. 2022 Jun;59(3):380-392. doi: 10.1177/13634615221089491. Epub 2022 Apr 6. PMID: 35382629; PMCID: PMC9149530.
Keywords: Muslims; body politics; gender; mental health; refugees; sexual torture.