The relationship between statement giving at the South African truth and reconciliation commission and psychological distress among former political detainees

Kagee A. (2006)


The therapeutic value of having testified before the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has not been previously examined. The objective of the present study was to determine if differences existed in terms of various psychological variables among people who did and did not give a statement to the TRC concerning human rights violations they had experienced during the apartheid era. One hundred and forty-eight black South African former political activists who were detained by the security forces during the apartheid era and subjected to abuse and torture completed the Hopkins Symptom Checklist, the Impact of Event Scale, the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire and the Medical Outcomes Study, Short Form 20. Comparisons between subjects who did and did not give in-camera statements to officials of the TRC yielded null results on all measures, indicating no differences in distress and traumatisation scores between the two groups of survivors. Possible reasons for these results include the likelihood that statement giving is an ineffective mechanism for reducing psychological distress, amnesty to perpetrators of abuse may be a barrier to the successful amelioration of distress in survivors, participants' quality of life has remained poor due to their lack of economic progress following South Africa's transition to democracy and the possibility that the statement giving process was too short, insufficiently structured and not designed to ensure long-term psychological gain. © Psychological Society of South Africa. All rights reierved.

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