Comparison of two methods of inquiry for torture with East African refugees: single query versus checklist.

Joseph Westermeyer, Michael Hollifield, Marline Spring, David Johnson, James Jaranson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


First to compare two methods of inquiry regarding torture: i.e., the traditional means of inquiry versus a checklist of torture experiences previously identified for these African refugees. Second, we hoped to identify factors that might influence refugees to not report torture on a single query when checklist data indicated torture events had occurred or to report torture when checklist data indicated that torture had not occurred. Consisted of queries to 1,134 community-dwelling East African refugees (Somalia and Ethiopia) regarding the presence-versus-absence of torture in Africa (single query), a checklist of torture experiences in Africa that we had previously identified as occurring in these groups, demography, non-torture traumatic experiences in Africa, and current posttraumatic symptoms. Showed that 14% of the study participants reported a torture experience on a checklist, but not on a single query. Nine percent responded positively to the single query on torture, but then failed to check any torture experience. Those reporting trauma on an open-ended query, but not on a checklist, had been highly traumatized in other ways (warfare, civil chaos, robbery, assault, rape, trauma during flight out of the country). Those who reported torture on the checklist but not on the single query reported fewer instances of torture, suggesting that perhaps a "threshold" of torture experience influenced the single-query report. In addition, certain types of torture appeared more apt to be associated with a singlequery endorsement of torture. On regression analysis, a single-query self-report of torture was associated with traumatic experiences consistent with torture, older age, female gender, and nontorture trauma in Africa. Inconsistent reporting of torture occurred when two methods of inquiry (one openended and one a checklist) were employed in this sample. We believe that specific contexts of torture and non-torture trauma, together with individual demographic characteristics and severity of the trauma, affect the self-perception of having been tortured. Specific information regarding these contexts, demographic characteristics, and trauma severity are presented in the report.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-172
Number of pages18
JournalTorture : quarterly journal on rehabilitation of torture victims and prevention of torture
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2011

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