Secondary Trauma among Caregivers who work with Mexican and Central American Refugees

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Volume: 37 issue: 2, page(s): 257-273 Article first published online: March 26, 2015; Issue published: May 1, 2015



Thousands of refugees have fled Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to escape violence, criminal victimization, and persecution as a result of the breakdown of public safety that has accompanied the rise of organized crime and drug-related violence. Many of these migrants have experienced torture, rape, abduction, forced labor, arson, and kidnapping. Caregivers and professionals who work with these refugees, including social workers, volunteers, attorneys, and advocates, have repeatedly witnessed severe trauma among refugees as the migrants recount horrific stories about their journeys. We conducted in-depth interviews with 31 individuals who have worked extensively and repeatedly with traumatized refugees. Participants completed the Secondary Traumatic Scale (STSS) and the Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL)-Compassion Fatigue (CF) scale. While most participants reported signs and symptoms of secondary traumatic stress, many also demonstrated high levels of compassion satisfaction. In addition, most were involved in self-care. Hispanic participants reported that elements of their culture were protective.