What is Marjorie Kovler Center?

Marjorie Kovler Center helps transform the lives of individuals recovering from the complex consequences of politically-sanctioned torture. Kovler Center provides medical, mental health, and social services; trains and educates locally and globally; and advocates for the end of torture worldwide.

When was Marjorie Kovler Center founded?

In 1987, a concerned group of physicians, psychologists, lawyers, a philanthropist, and torture survivors joined the burgeoning worldwide torture rehabilitation movement to set up services for survivors in Chicago. The second torture survivors’ treatment center to be established in the United States, the program received initial funding from the Blum-Kovler fund, becoming Marjorie Kovler Center to honor the memory of the mother of philanthropist Peter Kovler.

What is Marjorie Kovler Center’s relationship to Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights?

Marjorie Kovler Center is a program of Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, a 501(c)3 organization based in Chicago, providing comprehensive, innovative programs to the most vulnerable among us. Kovler Center is located administratively within Heartland Alliance’s International Programs.

What is torture?

Torture is the deliberate infliction of severe physical or psychological pain carried out by anyone acting in an official capacity. Torture exerts control over people and communities to create a cycle of fear, intimidation, and alienation. Torture is a crime under U.S. and international law.

What are the consequences of torture?

Survivors of torture often suffer from a complex post-traumatic stress disorder, which is manifested by anxiety, distrust, depression, flashbacks, intrusive memories related to the traumatic event, memory problems, and often a range of physical symptoms.

What is the treatment for torture survivors?

The goal of torture is to disempower individuals and communities. The goal of treatment, therefore, is to empower survivors to use their strengths to regain independence and personal integrity. Clients may receive medical, mental health, and social services. Many clients who recently arrived in the United States also need assistance with food, housing, and employment. Kovler Center helps survivors restore trust in others and re-establish a sense of community.

Where do survivors come from? How do they find their way to Marjorie Kovler Center?

Survivors come from over 77 (about 60 per year) countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. Survivors most commonly learn about Kovler Center by word of mouth. Attorneys, health care providers, and social service providers also refer survivors to Kovler Center.

How many clients does the Marjorie Kovler Center serve?

Kovler Center serves at minimum 350 survivors of torture each year, 75 – 90 of whom, both survivors and family members,  are new to Kovler Center.

Does Marjorie Kovler Center treat U.S. citizens?

Kovler Center serves U.S. citizens who meet the criteria of having been tortured, but only if they were tortured outside of the United States. We will assist in the referral of individuals who were tortured in the U.S. or in a country or place under U.S. control.

What services does Marjorie Kovler Center provide?

Kovler Center provides comprehensive medical, mental health and social services, such as  primary care services, psychiatric treatment, psychotherapy, and forensic exams. Kovler Center supports a bi-monthly cooking group for survivors, maintains plots in a community garden, runs computer and English classes, provides occupational therapy and organizes outings for clients within the City of Chicago. Through its network of volunteers, Kovler Center is able to offer vision and dental care services to clients. Several volunteers provide services in the healing arts, such as massage therapy, art therapy, and yoga. All services are provided free of charge.

Are there other torture survivors’ treatment centers in the United States?

Marjorie Kovler Center is part of the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs, one of 36 member organizations.

Who funds Marjorie Kovler Center?

Kovler Center is funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture; Blum-Kovler Foundation; United Way of Metropolitan Chicago; The Visiting Nurse Associations of America; Rosenberg Fund for Children;  corporate foundations and by generous contributions from individual donors.

How many staff does Marjorie Kovler Center employ?

Kovler Center has 15 staff (full- and part-time) and relies upon the services of almost 200 active volunteers, the majority of whom are professionals who provide over 10,000 hours of services pro bono each year.

Does Marjorie Kovler Center work internationally?

Kovler Center is internationally recognized for its unique approach in healing and empowering torture survivors. We have taken our expertise to help train and consult with practitioners all over the world including Guatemala, Rwanda, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Burundi, DRC, and Colombia. Kovler Center also trains locally and nationally.

How can I get involved?

There are many ways to get involved! We seek volunteers who will work directly with survivors:  physicians, psychotherapists, dentists, massage therapists, interpreters, English tutors, computer teachers, and individuals who can accompany clients to their appointments. Volunteers also help Kovler Center with administrative and building-related tasks. For more information please contact us at kovler@heartlandalliance.org or please fill out a volunteer application and email to Flutra Sahatqija, Senior Program Assistant.

The development committee seeks passionate, energetic individuals to raise awareness and funds. Contact Kelly Spence, Director External Relations, at mailto:kaspence@heartlandalliance.org to discuss ways you can get involved in short-term or ongoing projects.

Support our work!

Your tax-deductible contribution to Marjorie Kovler Center will support services for torture survivors, the training of students and professionals from health and allied fields, and advocacy work to end the practice of torture worldwide. Contact kaspence@heartlandalliance.org for information about additional opportunities for giving.



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