Nun speaks out against torture, sanctioned abuse

Sister Dianna Ortiz stood silently before a crowd of approximately 70 people gathered in the University’s Law School and lit a candle to commemorate torture survivors from around the world.

Ortiz, co-founder of the Washington, D.C.-based Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition, visited campus Thursday to increase awareness about torture and to promote her new memoir, “The Blindfold’s Eyes: My Journey from Torture to Truth.”

“To remember all the people that have been tortured; for those seeking to re-create their lives,” she said after lighting the candle.

A U.S. citizen working as a missionary in rural Guatemala, Ortiz was abducted on Nov. 2, 1989, and tortured for 24 hours. Her memoir describes her experiences of being raped, burned more than 100 times with cigarettes and being forced to participate in the torture of others.

Having survived the torture and returning to the United States, Ortiz now works to fulfill a promise she made to herself while enduring abuse years ago: to tell the world to never forget victims of torture.

The event was sponsored by the Center for Victims of Torture, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization.

Cristina Olseen, a junior majoring in Spanish, said she went to see Ortiz because she thought it was important to learn about torture in other cultures.

“There is so much hidden from the U.S.,” Olseen said. “It all happened so recently that it’s scary.”

As Ortiz read an excerpt from her memoir, tears came to the eyes of several audience members. Ortiz even had to pause for a moment as she broke into tears.

Ortiz said there are currently 150 countries that participate in torture and an estimated 500,000 torture survivors in the United States. Black blindfolds were handed out to audience members at the reading, each with a name of a country that participates in torture. Ortiz encouraged the audience to learn about these countries and help with the fight against torture.

“(Torture) can never be dignified. It’s not even suitable for animals,” Olseen said. “It has made me understand how blessed we are.”

Emily Ayshford is a freelance writer. The freelance editor welcomes comments at [email protected]