Keynote speaker Carlos Beristain to focus on survivor participation 


The IRCT 10th Scientific Symposium, which is set to open on 4 December, will feature a number of high profile speakers from around the world. Professor Carlos Beristain, is one of these speakers, and he will be joined by human rights activists the Women of Atenco in a plenary on "Fostering Resilience - Survivor Participation in Research and Treatment Planning."

Professor Beristain believes the event is important for a number of reasons. "The exchange of information between so many participants will be extremely fruitful. We need to see ourselves in the experiences of others and learn to grow both professionally and personally. Also in order not to feel alone, because in many countries those who do this work are considered as the enemy by different sectors or are even threatened, so the support of victims is done in territories of insecurity." 

He also believes the event will be an important opportunity to strengthen global networks and raise public awareness about torture, especially in Mexico, so that people can learn about the work being done globally in the sector, which can have a positive impact on their own situation. 

The area of survivor participation is one that many have strong ideas on and Professor Beristain is keen to share his experiences on how survivors should be involved from the start so they can regain control of their lives on their own terms. "Their ability to make decisions and take an active role is fundamental. Also, because of their experiences. Although their memories might be fragmented or limited, they can provide the group with a more positive perspective and act as an example for others," he adds.

Professor Beristain recalls an experience during a workshop with women survivors in Columbia when one survivor said, "It's the first time in ten years that I stopped feeling guilty." This was as a result of speaking with others in the group. Professor Beristain says, "We know that guilt can fill the space where the person tries to make sense of what happened and this guilt has a way of trying to take control of the situation, as well as having an enormous psychological impact on the person. The capacity for mutual support is key to recovery and our work must encourage that."

In addition to speaking at the Symposium, Professor Beristain is keen to take advantage of having some many participants with such diverse experiences in the room. "The experiences of others help us to grow ourselves. The contrast between different roles also facilitates a more interdisciplinary view of the work we do. In addition, this contributes to generating or strengthening networks and shared projects. We are working in different countries or places, so seeing others allows us to also have a broader vision and reinforce the meaning of what we do, while seeing how sharing our experiences can be useful to others."

To find out more about the Symposium programme, click here