Sister Dianna Ortiz, OSU: The mission of TASSC is to abolish torture wherever it occurs

Getting TASSC organized wasn’t easy. As Sister Dianna recalls, “It was important for us to have people understand that the voices of survivors need to be incorporated into the campaign to abolish torture. I still remember people just brushing us aside, saying, ‘You’re survivors, you’re just too traumatized by your experience, people are not going to want to hear what you have to say about your personal experience. Who wants to hear the unspeakable acts committed by another human being?’

Sister Rose Marita O’Bryan calls Sister Dianna “a 21st century face of our Ursuline founder, Saint Angela Merici.”

“Sometimes many of our members were labeled as fragile, unstable, not able to follow through with a plan, which we have proven untrue.”

But TASSC survived its skeptics and is celebrating a milestone this year. “This is our tenth year as an organization,” Sister Dianna proudly proclaims. “We have been successful in reaching survivors not just in the United States, but abroad. “We have survivors who live in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Pakistan, Bosnia, the Philippines and we’re just touching the tip of the iceberg.” She continues, “We would like to have a survivor representative who would be responsible for a particular continent. That’s our dream. But right now, because of lack of funds and because we don’t have the staff, we’re not able to put that plan into action.”

Sister Alice credits Sister Dianna with TASSC’s success. She says, “Her compassion, her keen insights, and her incredible courage have brought the ministry of TASSC to hundreds of survivors. Dianna has spoken to thousands of people, not only about her torture, but always recognizing that far too many others have had the same horrible experience. Conscious, too, of those being imprisoned and tortured NOW!

Sister Alice Zachmann, office manager and outreach director for TASSC, joined Sister Dianna for the Contemporary Woman Program presentation at Brescia.

“As the mission of TASSC is to abolish torture wherever it occurs, every opportunity that Sister Dianna has to direct that action she does so,” Sister Alice explains. “Her concern about other survivors is one of her other passions. Every survivor who comes to the office for support is warmly welcomed and receives help to the extent that TASSC is able to give it.”

The TASSC office is located in Washington, D.C. Is the U.S. government aware of TASSC and its mission?

“Members of Congress know we exist,” says Sister Dianna, “We are a credible organization. We do provide testimony before Congress. We provide interviews with mainstream media, alternative media as well. We have been working with ABC and 20/20. They’re doing a piece on evil and torture.

Getting their message out to the public is one of TASSC’s most important tasks. “Part of the healing for survivors is being able to reclaim one’s voice,” Sister Dianna explains. “I often say, and I think all of the other survivors will agree, that one never heals from torture. We learn to live with our experience. We try daily not to allow it to define who we are or what path we will walk…and it’s no easy task.”

In 2002 Sister Dianna told of her personal story of torture in the book The Blindfold’s Eyes: My Journey from Torture to Truth, co-written by human rights activist Patricia Davis.

Sister Dianna’s triumphant, long walk back from that dark day in November of 1985 hasn’t gone unnoticed by her peers.