Human Rights and Mental Health among Latin American Women in Situations of State-Sponsored Violence


Lykes, M. Brinton, Mary M. Brabeck, Theresa Ferns, and Angela Radan. 1993. “Human Rights and Mental Health among Latin American Women in Situations of State-Sponsored Violence.” Psychology of Women Quarterly 17 (4): 525-44.

Authors: M. Brinton Lykes, Mary M. Brabeck, Theresa Ferns, Angela Radan


A Task Force of the American Psychological Association Division 35, Psychology of Women, has been collecting resources that address issues of human rights and mental health among Latin American women living in situations of war and/or state-sponsored violence. This work is being conducted primarily by women's groups, progressive organizations, and individual women in these contexts of institutionalized political violence. This paper describes our reflections on themes that emerged from our reading of this work. We discuss the false dichotomy between public and private violence, the silencing of women as an inevitable consequence of state-imposed violence, and the collective efforts of women to resist violence and heal its effects. These themes suggest that extreme violence against women can be most adequately understood and responded to within a psychosocial and cultural framework. We examined three issues that emerge from the material gathered by the Task Force that suggest how some Latin American psychologists and activists have begun to articulate such a framework: (a) exile within and outside of one's country of origin; (b) torture, the most extreme form of state-sponsored violence; and (c) nontraditional, culturally appropriate interventions that are alternatives to Anglo-Saxon theory and practice. The work of Latin American individuals is described here as a resource for all who are engaged in the struggle to achieve justice for women.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Gender, Women, Health, Mental Health, Rights, Human Rights, Torture, Violence Regions: Americas, Central America, South America

Year: 1993

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