COVID-19 Response

The COVID-19 outbreak is one of those crises that leaves no one untouched, especially the more vulnerable in the community which includes those battling the psychic scars of torture. Fear and isolation are particularly debilitating for these survivors. Unfortunately, Center for Survivors of Torture is seeing an escalation of paralyzing anxiety, depression and insomnia among the adults and children served by the agency. Put simply, the pandemic is exacerbating the trauma these adults and children are already struggling to overcome. The impact of COVID-19 on CST and those it serves is why we adapted to the circumstances.

As an organization, CST’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic puts the safety and wellbeing of our clients and staff first. CST is closely adhering to guidance from respected resources and is doing all we can to take protective and constructive steps to mitigate the impact on survivors. To meet this goal CST very quickly implemented:

  • Intensive monitoring and distribution of client needs (i.e. food, clothing, diapers, shelter, utilities) to mitigate any gaps.
  • Telehealth services and technology for the adult and child clients to continue counseling treatment.
  • CST provides services to over 300 children who are now not in school, and rarely have access to technology.
  • Reaching out more frequently to the most at-risk adult and child clients.
  • Providing enhanced training to all clients with up-to-date, age appropriate information regarding COVID-19 in a multitude of languages.
  • Extending counseling hours, now available nights and half-day Saturdays

 Emergency Donations for Covid Relief will be used for the following:

  • Basic Household Kits: includes one-month supply of food, hygiene products or baby related diapers and wipes, and cleaning products. These cleaning products are needed to sanitize and clean to keep family members healthy and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Education Technology Kits: Many families do not have access to internet, computers, cell phones and/or tablets yet these are needed to continue the education of children, seek employment after job loss and for counseling and basic needs provision. Each kit includes a Chromebook and 6 months of internet service.
  • Adult Health Kits: These kits include over the counter medications, blood pressure monitors, thermometers, antibacterial sanitizer, gloves, wound care supplies, masks, and transportation passes needed for medical emergencies.

 

Survivors of torture were leaders in their home countries; they are educators, lawyers, journalists, doctors, nurses, scientists, engineers and others who worked for positive change. They are resilient and driven to succeed; they merely need help overcoming the after effects of torture. Those who come to the United States learn English, create businesses, and integrate into our communities.

The goal of Center for Survivors of Torture’s (CST) program is to assist survivors of torture and their families in the process of healing and recovery so they can attend to their health, begin the recovery process, discover and build new support networks, and lead productive, meaningful, and fulfilling lives. Since 1997, 8400 survivors and their families received integrated services to in Texas, including trauma-informed, client-centered psychological, legal, medical and social services as well as training, basic needs, referrals to services and resources. CST is the sole provider of strength-based free long-term torture treatment services throughout the 266,874 square miles of Texas, including Dallas, Austin, and satellite offices in Fort Worth, and San Antonio.

Survivors of torture were leaders in their home countries; they are educators, lawyers, journalists, doctors, nurses, scientists, engineers and others who worked for positive change. They are resilient and driven to succeed; they merely need help overcoming the after effects of torture. Those who come to the United States learn English, create businesses, and integrate into our communities.

The goal of Center for Survivors of Torture’s (CST) program is to assist survivors of torture and their families in the process of healing and recovery so they can attend to their health, begin the recovery process, discover and build new support networks, and lead productive, meaningful, and fulfilling lives. Since 1997, 8400 survivors and their families received integrated services to in Texas, including trauma-informed, client-centered psychological, legal, medical and social services as well as training, basic needs, referrals to services and resources. CST is the sole provider of strength-based free long-term torture treatment services throughout the 266,874 square miles of Texas, including Dallas, Austin, and satellite offices in Fort Worth, and San Antonio.

 

A statement on Center for Survivors of Torture Serving Afghani Refugees in Texas

Since 1997, Center for Survivors of Torture, has been on the front lines helping refugees transition to their lives in Texas, and mental health counseling is necessarily at the heart of what we do. Right now, people are wondering what they can do to help those coming in from Afghanistan. For us, providing free mental health counseling and social services, and utilizing interpreters who speak Dari and Pashto, are at the top of our list. 

When a refugee lands in Texas, there’s a checklist of items that person will receive to abruptly transition to a new life in a strange new city. The refugee will get an apartment to live in for four to six months, vaccinations, ESL courses, a medical evaluation, and either a job or training toward a new job. 

It’s enough to make a new start, for sure, but when you consider what it doesn’t account for, it’s very striking that the list starts and stops with just those items. People who were professionals in the places they once lived end up cleaning hotel rooms or washing dishes. They’re set up for the present, but with the knowledge there’s an uncertain future looming. 

And, as we’re seeing with the current situation in Afghanistan, those refugees lucky enough to make it here have family members they’ve had to leave behind, that they now must worry about. All are feeling an incredible sense of loss for the lives they’ve left behind and a homeland that might be forever transformed by the Taliban. 

For many refugees — from not just Afghanistan but from all over the globe — their mental health was already fragile,  facing deaths of loved ones and threats in their home countries,  and now by the sudden disruptive journey they’ve had to make, and all too often, mental health is  a forgotten part of the equation. 

We know all too well, as our name suggests, that many of the refugees that make their way to Dallas and other big cities in Texas have endured and emerged from unspeakable conditions. While we proudly note on our website that 82 percent of those with mental health needs we work with, met their counseling goals within six months.

But those goals are incredibly stark for those of us fortunate to live much different lives than these refugees. They include meaning that they will be able to eat, sleep without nightmares, concentrate and feel joy again. 

For the children we work with, 70 percent will demonstrate a reduction of symptoms as evidenced on the Children’s Depression Inventory 2 after six months or less of counseling. 

We’re obviously happy to be making a difference for the majority of those we do work with, but we’re obviously heartbroken for those who take longer to gain their humanity back — or for those who slip through the cracks altogether. 

For the 86 percent of our clients who report improved mental and physical health and quality of life through our goal-oriented services, we can see the difference we’re making. Three years ago, an Afghani man walked into our office with just $50 in his pocket, seeking a new life in the U.S. after serving as an interpreter for the American military. After working with him for six months, he built from that foundation into new successes here in Texas, saying that we’ve “given him back his dreams.” But he’s aghast at what he’s seeing now in Afghanistan, noting, “I am crying about what is happening.” 

The work we do, as long as conflicts displace people, will be endless, but we have to keep doing it. Helping refugees is more than just finding them beds and jobs; they also have to be able to heal. 

Celia VanDeGraaf is executive director of the Center for Survivors of Torture, with offices in Dallas and Austin.  To make a referral: *214-827-2314 North Texas *512-358-4612 Central Texas

Click here to read former Board Chair Paige Gibson’s “Why I Still Give to CST” letter.

How Your Donation Helps

While our clients have often endured the unimaginable, we are constantly amazed by the capacity of the human spirit to heal, forgive, and seek happiness. Your gift can help them on their journey.

Click here to read former Board Chair Paige Gibson’s “Why I Still Give to CST” letter.

How Your Donation Helps

While our clients have often endured the unimaginable, we are constantly amazed by the capacity of the human spirit to heal, forgive, and seek happiness. Your gift can help them on their journey.

Click here to read former Board Chair Paige Gibson’s “Why I Still Give to CST” letter.

Our services

CST provides wraparound services, which have been a best practice for many decades, and treat the whole client in the context of being an individual, a member of a family, a part of a culture and a survivor of repeated trauma, in a culturally competent manner.

Counseling

Evaluation, diagnosis and treatment with individual, group and family therapy: Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Solution-Focused approaches

Forensic Reports

Clinical evidence

Medical care

Diagnosis, treatment, pain reduction, wound care, physiotherapy, prescriptions

Training

Training those who are interested in providing services to survivors

Social Services

Clients along with their case managers, set and achieve goals, obtain basic needs, ESL, and housing stability, leading to self sufficiency

APB Education Program

Employment skills inventory and community college easy-entry programs

FY 2020, CST served 724 clients and their families in Texas,
ages 3-77 from 52 countries and 32 ethnicities.

Outcomes

CST treatment is extremely effective. From impact assessment, 82% of clients meet their counseling goals within six months. They resolve grief and trauma and integrate their experiences into the larger context of their full potential.

In a one-year period, we expect to achieve:

%

of individuals will meet their counseling goals within six months—they will be able to eat, sleep without nightmares, concentrate and feel joy again

%

of children will demonstrate a reduction of symptoms as evidenced on the Children’s Depression Inventory 2 after 6 months or less of counseling

%

of clients who need medical care and medications will receive it from CST and/or referrals to other providers

%

of clients reported improved mental and physical health and quality of life through our goal-oriented services

How Many Survivors of Torture are there in the United States?

 

A meta-analysis of previous research studies on torture prevalence rates within refugee populations in the United States revealed that as many as 44% of refugees are either primary or secondary survivors of torture.¹ Applying the 44% torture prevalence rate to the overall number of refugees who have been resettled in the past 30 years, there could be as many as 1.3 million survivors of torture in the United States and 90,000 in Texas.

1 Center for Victims of Torture, “Updating the Estimate of Refugees Resettled in the United States who have Suffered Torture,” (Sept. 2015). http://www.cvt.org/sites/cvt.org/files/SurvivorNumberMetaAnalysis_Sept2015_0.pdf

How Many Survivors of Torture are there in the United States?

 

A meta-analysis of previous research studies on torture prevalence rates within refugee populations in the United States revealed that as many as 44% of refugees are either primary or secondary survivors of torture.¹ Applying the 44% torture prevalence rate to the overall number of refugees who have been resettled in the past 30 years, there could be as many as 1.3 million survivors of torture in the United States and 90,000 in Texas.

1 Center for Victims of Torture, “Updating the Estimate of Refugees Resettled in the United States who have Suffered Torture,” (Sept. 2015). http://www.cvt.org/sites/cvt.org/files/SurvivorNumberMetaAnalysis_Sept2015_0.pdf

Longer-term Program Impact and Successes

Nearly twenty-three years ago, Congress passed the first Torture Victims Relief Act (PL 105–320—OCT. 30, 1998) with strong bipartisan support, recognizing impact of torture commonly leads survivors to demonstrate symptoms such as chronic pain, sleep disorders, severe depression and anxiety, deterioration of physical health and suicidal ideation. Today, thousands of torture survivors around the world depend on this lifesaving assistance, even though needs continue to far exceed available resources.

Longer-term program success for clients and the community includes improved mental health and quality of life, wellness, self-sufficiency, English proficiency, educational achievement, employment, economic status, support systems, civic involvement, general health status, housing, relationships, and impact on future generations.

%

of clients became proficient in English

%

of clients reported having an established support network

%

of clients were able to implement skills learned at CST in other settings

%

of clients reported improved mental and physical health and quality of life through our goal-oriented services

Thirty-two Percent of CST’s Clients are Children

 

Their needs are immense and unique. The horrors endured by refugee children mandate that counseling begin as soon as possible.  CST program goals are to help children process the trauma, heal physically and emotionally, improve family relationships, acculturate and become ready for formal education in public schools.  CST achieves these goals through a well-designed program of counseling in schools, other agencies and in our office, medical care, education, and case management.

People at CST have been so caring. Before arriving at the Center, I was hopeless. I wouldn’t sleep or eat. Now, my life is better.

-Finny, Zimbabwe

GET INVOLVED

Locations

CST provides services in Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, and San Antonio.
To make a referral for any location, please call (512) 358-4612

Dallas
4108 Swiss Avenue
Dallas, TX 75204
Phone: (214) 827-2314
Monday through Saturday,
9:00am – 5:00pm

Austin
9415 Burnet Road, Suite #201
Austin, TX 78758
Phone: (512) 358-4612
Monday through Friday,
9:00am – 6:00pm

San Antonio Satellite Office
590 N. General McMullen
Suite 3
San Antonio, Texas 78228
Phone: (210) 434-1054
Fridays, 1:00-7:00pm or by appointment

Fort Worth Office in Refugee Services of Texas
4200 South Freeway
Fort Worth, Texas 76115
Phone: (817) 413-3772
Thursdays, 9:00am – 5:00pm