The war in Iraq may be over, but federal spending on its fallout continues. As repeated waves of refugees continue to flood the county, providing psychological therapy and other help for Iraqis tortured both during and after Desert Storm has become a rapidly growing enterprise. As a result, locally based Survivors of Torture International has recently received “an urgent single-source grant” from the federal government “to support direct services to persons who have experienced trauma or torture prior to their arrival in the United States.” According to its website, the nonprofit, founded in 1997, helps “survivors to recover from their traumas through a holistic program including medical, dental, psychiatric, psychological, and social services.”
The $271,000 survivors grant, awarded last month by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, according to a notice in the Federal Register, “will serve San Diego County, which is the area that has received the greatest number of Iraqi refugee arrivals, as well as a high percentage of other refugees and asylum-seekers.”
Under terms of the grant, Survivors of Torture International is to “provide comprehensive rehabilitative services to Iraqi and other survivors of torture, who are in need of specialized services that will enable these survivors to regain their health and independence and rebuild productive lives,” and the organization is to “train other area service providers to more effectively serve this population.”
According to the government, in 2009, “twenty-eight percent of the country’s asylum-seekers came to California for resettlement. In 2010, a total of 3663 refugees were resettled in San Diego. At least 159,550 refugees, asylees, and asylum-seekers in San Diego have come from areas where torture may be practiced. San Diego’s numbers include an influx in Iraqi refugees, as one in four Iraqi refugees has resettled in California, with the vast majority resettling in San Diego.”
The San Diego torture treatment center, which has recorded an 84 percent increase in client intakes since 2009, is the county’s only local program that provides “medical affidavits for torture survivors to use in claiming asylum,” the notice says. In its justification for the single-source grant award, the filing says, “[Survivors of Torture International] is well positioned to provide medical, psychological, social, and legal services to Iraqis who have suffered torture and are relocated in the San Diego area.”
Cofounded and run by Kathi Anderson, who has an M.A. in counseling from San Jose State University and a B.A. in international relations from the University of the Pacific, the nonprofit raised $1,012,879 during the 12-month period ending last September 30, according to its most recent tax filing. It had total expenses of $899,028 and net assets of $521,616. Anderson’s salary was $81,151. According to its return, the group had total lobbying expenses of $4390.
In a telephone interview last week, Anderson said that funding from the grant, much of which is to be spent on psychological care for torture victims, was expected to arrive later this month. Legal services provided by the group are furnished pro bono by local law firms, she said. Anderson added that the group’s lobbying expenses went for advocating continuation of federal funding for torture-victim assistance.