Trauma, torture, and transformation in the forensic assessor

J Pers Assess. 2005 Feb;84(1):25-8; discussion 33-6. doi: 10.1207/s15327752jpa8401_06.


In this article, I present the case study of an Ethiopian woman, reportedly a victim of torture in her country of origin, who was seeking political asylum in the United States. I evaluated this woman as part of a forensic psychological assessment for Immigration Court. The assessment was conducted to determine whether the woman's descriptions of her torture and the resulting symptoms of psychological trauma were consistent with a credible claim of political persecution. While maintaining a neutral stance required of forensic psychological examiners, I nonetheless had a powerfully transformative experience in the assessment role regarding the experience of human courage. This event led me to reexamine the meaning of neutrality in forensic psychological assessments involving victims of torture and perhaps in other forensic roles as well.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ethiopia / ethnology
  • Female
  • Forensic Psychiatry*
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Torture / psychology*
  • United States
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology*