Many White Terror survivors exhibit “lingering effects of trauma” and a number of their family members experience transgenerational trauma, the Transitional Justice Commission said, citing the findings of a study.
The commission on Sunday said that it over the past year interviewed the families of 34 White Terror victims, many of whom had been subjected to torture, including having their fingernails pulled out and being strapped to “tiger benches.”
The victims’ memories of the traumas returned later in their lives, causing them great distress, it added.
Commission member Peng Jen-yu (彭仁郁), who has a doctorate in psychology and psychoanalysis from Paris Diderot University, said that 80 percent of those interviewed felt that the 228 Incident and the White Terror era were not well understood by the public, which made it hard to talk about their experiences with others.
She cited 13 of the interviewees as saying that they were forced to confess under torture to crimes they did not commit, with one of them, a man now aged 85, saying that intensely bright lights were shone in his face until he had a mental breakdown and then he was repeatedly electrocuted.
“They electrocuted him until he urinated where he stood. He was brought close to death — his central nervous system sustained permanent damage,” Peng said.
In the White Terror era, political prisoners were taken to detention centers, where they were deprived of their rights and dehumanized, Peng said.
Police denied detainees food and water, deprived them of sleep and stared at them while they used the toilet to humiliate them and make them feel like “objects,” she said.
Even 60 years later, former prisoners still have nightmares, especially when they become weaker in their old age, she added.
The study also called attention to people with transgenerational trauma, an area that was previously overlooked in Taiwan, Peng said, adding that the issue has gained attention overseas, where researchers have looked at the families of victims of Nazi concentration camps.
Peng cited the eldest son of White Terror victim Pan Mu-chih (潘木枝) as an example of transgenerational trauma, saying that the domestic violence he committed later in life is now understood to be tied to the trauma of seeing his father executed in front of him.
The commission said that it has communicated to the Ministry of Health and Welfare the need for a treatment center for victims of political persecution.
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