Although many studies focus on torture practiced by the police, military, and other branches of government, torture can also occur especially when women, children, or other civilians are targeted within families or other public places. Torture is also practiced in an astonishing array of forms. Physical torture may involve beating, burning, cutting, starving, hanging (by the thumbs or feet), kicking, mutilating, forcing body parts into icy or boiling water, blinding, puncturing ear drums, removing body parts, applying acid or electric shocks, breaking bones, and so on. Some methods have become so common that they are given their own names such as Bell, Buzzer, Carry On, Chepuwa, Falanga, Helicopter Trip, Necklacing, and Telephone Although all forms of physical torture are likely to have psychological effects and consequences, some forms of torture are solely psychological in nature. For example, people may be forced to watch family or friends being tortured, they may be given false reports about the torture, death, or betrayal of loved ones.

They may also be told that they are about to be executed, which is sometimes followed by a fake execution. Yet another example is, victims of torture may be told that no one remembers them or cares, and that if they survive, no one will believe them. The psychological effects of torture may range from the expectation of a fixed routine, like the dread of questioning and physical torture at set times each day.

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The other extreme is inability to know what will happen next. Some of the cruelest techniques of psychological torture are those that appear to make the person an active participant. The person may be told to choose which of two family members, friends, or other fellow prisoners should be tortured or put to death. The person may be told to undress and use the torture devices on themselves. The person may also be told to reveal the names or locations of individuals whom the torturers want to capture. Failure to give the information could result in the torture or death of fellow prisoners.

Sometimes, people may be forced to participate in the torture of others. These people may be asked what form of torture they prefer, or which piece of the body the person can most easily do without. Websites and resources on torture tend to focus on adult victims, but children are also targets of torture. In all areas of the world, children are subjected to forms of physical, psychological, and sexual torture. For many torturers, children make inviting targets because of their lack of size and strength.

Children also rely on adult authority, which also makes them targets, along with the fact that they are not viewed as reliable witnesses. In 1975 the United Nations (UN) General Assembly approved the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This bill has increased the awareness of torture, along with many other world-wide organizations. Even though this declaration has been introduced, torture still occurs too this day, 28 years later.