I used the Washington Post’s crowd-sourced interactive map, “Where are the migrant child facilities? Scattered across America,” as the beginning point of my research. Once I got close to an identified location, I asked residents for any information they had on where to find the children. The first place I stopped was actually a local jail. I made sure I had a pleasant demeanor, and walked in. One of the staff came to the glass partition in the entryway and I told her what I was doing – that I had therapy dolls for the children who had been taken away from their parents. She told me no children were there. We then talked about the work she was proud of; that the facility operated in conjunction with a mental health organization to avoid long-term and repetitive incarceration.

Suddenly, her eye-contact ended, her face and speech pattern changed as she interrupted her own train of thought and said, “Do you mean the Guatemalan children?” I replied, “The map didn’t say which of the migrant children were housed in a particular place, but yes, any of the children.” Her eyes went dead and it was like a steel trap came around her entire being. In a monotone voice she told me, “Oh, those children haven’t been here for several weeks. I don’t know where they took them to.”

We said our good-byes. I reflected on this interaction while I continued to drive–I wondered if I had just witness a form of what Dr. Rachel M. MacNair, PhD has researched and labeled as “Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress,” a condition not unlike PTSD. Had even the incidental participation in the violence of the Family Separation Policy claimed this woman as victim? Everything inside of me told me this was true.  I wished I had realized her woundedness in the moment and offered her the healing of simply sitting in the lap the Guatemalan grandmother. I made a mental note to try to offer that opportunity to her, if it was possible, at another time.

Share your thoughts in meaningful dialogue –

What is Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress (PITS)?

Describe Stanley Milgram’s experiments and what they demonstrated about obedience and authority.

How does resistance to what you think is wrong help mental health?