Survivors of torture and human cruelty often have multiple injuries, illnesses and medical healthcare needs that require NHS treatment, typically including head injuries and neurological disorders, badly healed fractures and wounds, gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory disorders and rape injuries, including sexually transmitted infections. Clients have often had ineffective and sporadic contact with health care providers, usually limited to emergency or crisis contact and beginning to address their multiple medical needs is extremely difficult because of limitations of time and accessibility within the NHS. HBF’s in-house advisory GPs offer extended appointments of up to 1 hour, alongside interpreters experienced in working with trauma survivors, which allow clients appropriate time and opportunity to discuss their history and concerns. Following an in depth assessment, HBF GPs offer specialist advice to client’s NHS GP and other healthcare providers. HBF Medical Advisory Clinic is run on the generosity of volunteer GPs.
Many survivors of torture and human cruelty experience chronic physical pain. Because the pain is as a result of their traumatic experiences, clients often struggle to positively address their suffering, being too afraid or ashamed to seek support, ignoring symptoms and even self-harming by aggravating their injuries. The Helen Bamber Foundation’s specialist physical rehabilitation programme helps clients address their injuries in an environment that is sensitive to their experience of human cruelty. Treatments and activities including osteopathy, acupuncture and yoga help clients to positively connect with their bodies, manage their pain, rebuild their physical strength and better manage symptoms including poor sleep, anxiety and hypervigilance. Thanks to our partnership with Better Gyms, we are also able to offer clients free access to gyms, pools and exercises classes across London.
Am is a survivor of trafficking for sexual exploitation from South East Asia. She was very reluctant to join the self-defence class as there were two men running the training and she has an overwhelming fear of men. The trainers amended the programme to include a non-contact boxercise session before moving onto self-defence techniques. Am enjoyed the physical exercise and later joined in enthusiastically with the self-defence. The following week she asked it would be possible to do this more regularly. She said she felt that she could be strong again and that getting fit and building her strength was very exciting and the physical rehabilitation team have supported AM to enrol in a local gym.
*all names are pseudonyms