On February 3, 2012 the Mayor’s Office facilitated a meeting between the Somaly Mam Foundation (SMF) and the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture (PSOT). At the meeting, Mayor’s Office Survivors of Human Trafficking Working Group (Working Group) members Allen Keller, MD, Program Director, and Hawthorne “Hawk” Smith, PhD, Clinical Director, sat down with SMF founder and survivor of human trafficking, Somaly Mam, to share experiences in healing and rebuilding lives.
“There is much we can learn from each other’s work,” noted Dr. Keller, who earlier in his career worked as a medical volunteer in Cambodia. “Somaly Mam’s journey from trafficking victim to empowered survivor and advocate is nothing less than inspirational.” Drs. Keller and Smith discussed PSOT’s approach to caring for torture survivors: addressing the physical, psychological and social dimensions of clients’ health in a comprehensive, interdisciplinary and humanistic manner. This includes innovative psychological methods, such as culturally appropriate support groups.
Dr. Smith noted: “We share a common philosophy with the Somaly Mam Foundation to empower our clients to be active partners in their own care.” Dr. Smith has conducted pioneering work in survivor support groups including facilitating a French-speaking African torture survivors group for over 15 years. “We learn as much, if not more, from our clients than they learn from us,” added Dr. Smith.
Participants from both programs discussed the differences and similarities of treatment for the two distinctive populations. PSOT and the Somaly Mam Foundation explored areas of collaboration, including Drs. Keller and Smith possibly visiting Somaly Mam’s shelters in Cambodia to share the PSOT approach to humanistic psychological treatment of survivors of human trafficking.
“This collaborative relationship will add value to partnerships already formed by the Working Group and PSOT as we move forward with plans to establish an interdisciplinary Pilot Program, housed at Bellevue, to treat foreign-born survivors of human trafficking, “said Deputy Counsel to the Mayor Norma Abbene. The Pilot Program will be based on the same holistic approach, aimed at treating the entire person, which PSOT uses to enable torture survivors to marshal their inherent capacities for adjusting, coping, and healing.
Individuals in photo: Dr. Hawthorne Smith; Norman Greene, Esq.; Deputy Counsel Norma Abbene, Esq.; SMF President Somaly Mam; Dr. Loren Wissner Greene; Dr. Allen Keller.