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Video Librarian
February 11, 2014

Refuge: Caring for Survivors of Torture

Designed primarily for caregivers but also of more general interest, Ben Achtenberg’s sober but quietly searing documentary reminds those who might treat immigrants to the United States that many of their charges have been victims of torture—a fact that must necessarily be taken into account in structuring therapy.

The film is divided into three parts, with the first pointing out that the influx of people who have suffered persecution and mistreatment is hardly a new phenomenon in American history. But as the second segment emphasizes, the fact that torture is today a worldwide phenomenon—coupled with the observation that refugees are entering the U.S. from a large variety of locales (the Middle East, Africa, the Far East) where torture is commonplace—makes the subsequent trauma something that caregivers must learn to recognize and have the tools to address. The third section looks at modes of treatment, including group therapy.

Refuge visits programs specifically designed to assist victims in various areas of the country—Minneapolis, Atlanta, the Boston area, and Washington, D.C.—some of them created and operated by individuals who have endured similar experiences. The documentary includes extensive excerpts from interviews with refugees, as well as practitioners who discuss the extent of the problem and how they are confronting it. While this will serve admirably as an introduction for health service professionals, the wider human story it tells can touch a broader audience.

Recommended. Aud: C, P. (F. Swietek) (2013)
57 minutes, DVD or Blu-ray: $65: public libraries; $265: colleges & universities.
The Refuge Media Project (available from
PPR. Closed captioned (dvd only)