Restoring One Life at a Time: the Importance of Trauma-Informed and Culturally Sensitive Care in Journeying with Survivors of Sex Trafficking and Abuse

Since 2008, My Refuge House (MRH) has provided hope through safe housing and therapeutic care for young women and children rescued from commercial sexual exploitation (CSE), online sexual exploitation (OSEC) and sexual abuse in Cebu, Philippines. MRH is concerned with the holistic treatment and wellness of our residents, all of whom have suffered significant trauma. Highly cognizant that the needs of trafficking survivors are unique and quite complex, we take on an individualized and holistic approach toward recovery and healing, meeting these needs and journeying with survivors through excellent clinical and educational programs and partnerships with the local and global aftercare community.

In this presentation-workshop, MRH hopes to bring light to our transition from a budding organization and into a Filipino-led aftercare NGO that takes pride in its culturally responsive programming and resilience-focused processes. We aim to share the following:
● How we have maneuvered away from approaches mostly rooted in the Western perspective of care
● The heavy emphasis we place on putting the Filipino culture at the heart of care provision
● The work that we do in terms of providing trauma-informed interventions to our participants and how we build the capacity of other organizations to do the same
● How we empower our participant-survivors and increase their sense of control by involving them in the creation of tailored interventions and encouraging their participation in the development of intervention plans, reintegration plans, etc.
● The changes in language that we’ve adapted to better reflect the “What happened to you?” instead of “What’s wrong with you?” paradigm shift
● How we address secondary trauma in our staff members and promote mental healthcare in the workplace

Apart from highlighting our trauma-informed and culturally sensitive practices, My Refuge House also seeks to shed light on our efforts to create a family-like environment inside our shelter and our all-out attitude toward involving the parents of our survivors, their family members, and communities in the healing and recovery process. In providing care to survivors of trafficking and abuse, we recognize that their families are traumatized, as well, and would need guidance in navigating the difficult years when their child/children are in the residential shelter.


Rose Ann Ababa

Director of Program Operations , My Refuge House


Jedaia Rose Doñoz

Therapeutic Aftercare and Advocacy Manager , My Refuge House; Philippines