Torture is the deliberate act of inflicting severe physical and emotional pain on an individual. Individuals and organizations in the society adopt torture for various reasons. These include interrogation, punishment, revenge, deterrence, coercion, or the attainment of some form of gratification. Historical records show that torture is an old practice with roots traceable to the onset on human existence. Societies have had different means of ensuring that people adhere to rules, norms and traditions. These measures included torturing individuals with high levels of disobedience. However, torture did not only serve the role of resorting sanity in the society. It was a prevalent practice during wars. In addition, individuals used it to attain personal gratification. Although methods of torture have considerably changed with time, torture is still prevalent in the modern society. Research shows that torture causes irreversible physical and psychological damages that exceed the benefits obtained from the practice.
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Torture has long-term psychological effects on victims, their families, the society and perpetrators of torture. It causes extensive trauma leading to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression and insomnia. In addition, it introduces feelings of guiltiness and shame among the victims due to their subjection to humiliating acts.
Mental health researchers and psychiatrics agree that exposure to certain torture experiences causes PTSD. In this case, victims develop symptoms relating to hyper-vigilance, intrusions and arousal (Gerrity et al., 2001). Torture causes victims to start viewing the world as an unsafe place. Thus, they adopt behaviors such as avoiding people and open windows as a way of preserving their safety. Nightmares and hallucinations are common symptoms that result from memories of torturous events. Torture victims replay events characterized by tormenting episodes of their life. The prospects of death or injury during torture causes extensive trauma. In addition, they develop hypersensitivity and their level of perception of danger deteriorates to the point where they start reacting to false alarms. They also become irritable and are upset most of the time.
Humiliating acts such as forced nakedness degrades the identity of torture victims. Research shows that the perception of sexual humiliation varies depending on the religion, culture and gender of the victim. For example, Muslim women subjected to sexual humiliation can neither admit nor narrate the ordeal to their family members due to fear of rejection. Men who undergo torture perpetrated by women develop a feeling of shame as such an occurrence amounts to the degradation of their manhood. Sexual humiliation creates an environment characterized by sexual insecurity for the victims.
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Sensory deprivation has adverse effects on the victims of torture. These include memory lapse and paranoia. The incident of on East Germany political prisoners shows that a combination of solitary confinement and tortuous acts such as sleep deprivation leads to the distortion of perceptions. The use of sleep deprivation as a torture method causes cognitive impairment. Victims slowly develop attention problems, and memory and speech impairment.
Although the physical effects of torture vary depending on the torture method used, all forms of torture have several long-term structural and functional implications. These include scars, neurological damage, musculoskeletal pains, visual impairment, cardiovascular problems, and damage to other parts of the body (Gerber, 2011). Clinical records on individuals tortured using the strapping method, illustrate various musculoskeletal effects. Victims exhibited difficulties with muscle movement and injuries to tendons and nerve sheaths around the affected area. This resulted due to the fixation of individuals through means such as ropes and handcuffs.
Electrical torture causes considerable damages to muscle fibers. The effects of both mobile and fixed electrodes on a torture victim are similar to muscle injuries caused by blunt blows. Research shows that the use of electrical torture leads to the development of cardiovascular problems and neuropathy among the victims.
Scars, the most common physical sign of torture, result from torturous acts that cause burns and cuts. Scars aggravate the psychological effects of torture as they constantly remind victims of their ordeal. Severe scarring, especially around joints, hampers the normal functioning of the affected joints.
Spinal injury is another devastating effect of torture. It mostly occurs when perpetrators of torture subject victims to various tortuous acts while the victims are in a fixed position. Acts such as beating, the forceful carrying of heavy objects and making victims stay in inappropriate positions through immobilization or confinement, lead to spinal injuries due to the exertion of excessive pressure on parts or the whole of the spine. Prolonged exposure to torture in fixed position may lead to permanent disabilities.
Sexual torture subjects victims to inappropriate treatment of their genital and anal regions. This form of torture causes problems such as lumbar pain, pelvic pain, urination and defecation disorders, difficulties of movement around the affected areas, sexual problems and menstrual disorders if the victim is a woman.
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All torture methods involve some form of violence. The perpetrator of torture hit victims on various parts of the body leading to complications. Head injuries may result in epilepsy and memory disruption. Blows around the eyes and ears may lead to visual impairment and hearing loss because of the damage of delicate optical nerves and the eardrum.
The disruption of sleeping patterns and inadequate sleep, both of which are common forms of torture, cause health problems such as hypertension. Respiratory problems result due to toxic chemicals, gas, and confinement in poorly aerated places. Victims may develop asthma, bronchitis, respiratory cancer and other types of respiratory disorder.
Proponents of Torture
Despite its adverse effects, proponents of torture view the practice as unavoidable in a society whose members are quickly losing morals and values. This group supports the use of torture in matters of national security and protection of citizens. In their opinion, the protection of the lives of millions of innocent lives supersedes the rights of a few criminals. Law enforcement officers should use all means to extract information that may help to avert terrorism and other criminal acts. Perpetrators of terrorism and other crimes subject innocent people to various forms of torture. Their acts cause deaths, disabilities, injuries and physical and psychological effects. Thus, there is no need to exempt them from the ordeal that they subject other people. Individual who disregard the rights of other people and subject them to torture do not deserve the recognition of their rights. For example, to save the life of a hostage, police in Germany used torture to obtain information from one of the kidnappers. If they had not taken such as drastic action, the abductors would have probably killed or tortured their victim. However, proponents of torture agree that using the practice outside matters of law and order amounts to a criminal act.
Although both the proponents and opponents of torture have reasons for their stance on the matter, an evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of torture from the perspective of both the victim and the perpetrator illustrates the inappropriateness of the practice as a means of restoring sanity in the society. There are numerous ways of solving issues within the society without resulting to torture. Rehabilitation of criminals should be an ethical process that betters individuals rather than aggravating their physical and psychological status. Improved methods of gathering intelligence eliminate the need of using coercive means to extract information from terrorists and criminals. Although the physical effects of torture are more significant for the victim, the psychological effects to both the victims and perpetrators are adverse and long-term.