September 18, 2017 10:37 AM
Two months ago, U.S. military and Iraqi forces all but pushed ISIS out of the shattered, ruined cities in Iraq.
ISIS' cruel, torturous, horrific crimes of brainwashing, rape and sex slavery are now rising from the ruined lives of refugees pushing their way back home to northern Iraq, to the refugee camps that are their only feasible home, and into the arms of two psychotherapists from Wisconsin.
The couple is helping the tortured people ISIS kidnapped and threw away. Those tortured are mostly Kurds, called Yazidis.
"They come to us with their heads bowed and their palms lifted up, saying, 'Can we be in your program?'" one of the psychotherapists, Carl Gaede, said.
He and his wife Julie left their marriage counseling practice, sold their home in New Richmond, Wisconsin, an hour from Minneapolis, gave up the good life and walked into a war zone in Iraq with their two children.
"We cashed it in for a great life," the Gaedes said.
They were near Mosul when the worst of ISIS' battle with Iraqi and U.S forces was unfolding. The Gaedes were holding and counseling children in a refugee camp who had escaped ISIS.
"(ISIS) would teach them how to cut off the head of a Barbie doll, then a chicken's head, then cut off the head of a human, and then they would make them watch people being beheaded," Carl Gaede said.
Said Julie Gaede: "Some children were forced to watch their moms raped time and time again."
The survivors told them brutal, inhumane stories of their captivity in ISIS underground tunnels. Julie Gaede said she couldn't stop crying in her first two weeks in Iraq.
"This is a calling, we are serving God," Carl Gaede said. "He's with the hurting and the broken; that's where I want to be too."
The Gaedes are channeling their psychotherapy work through their nonprofit Tutapona. They work in three refugee camps. They hire and train people to help them deliver healing and care in the languages people speak and the through the therapy they most need. They treat the hearts and minds of men, women and children who have lived through the worst of humanity.
The Gaedes say the layers of trauma of Yazidi survivors are multiple. Often, they've lost the only home and city they'd ever known, their sense of safety and security is now almost nonexistent, and the post-traumatic stress they've endured at the hands of ISIS has left them broken.
The couple said there are hundreds of stories of torture that don't and won't go away. Suicide rates in the camp are very high. And they said there are very few people in the region doing the work they do.
But they say they see and know that the wound is where the light shines in.
"Released from the pain of all that, that's what keeps us going," Carl Gaede said. "If we didn't have that, I couldn't keep hearing those stories."
The Gaedes are determined to help the suffering find their silenced voices in the ruins of ISIS' hell.
They hope their work resonates in the U.S. and that Americans will be able to understand and empathize with the people the Gaedes are helping. They also hope American citizens will realize they don't have to fear refugees who want to come to the U.S. to find better lives.
Find the Tutapona website here.
Updated: September 18, 2017 10:37 AM
Created: September 17, 2017 06:07 PM
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