Report Exploitation

Voices of Empowerment

Mapping Key Lessons In Survivor Engagement

This report, co-authored by survivor leaders, offers insights and a practical guide to working and interacting with survivors. It is based on IJM's Center to End Online Sexual Exploitation of Children's collaborations with survivor leaders since 2022. Full acknowledgments are available here. Survivor leaders are referred to by pseudonym throughout the report.


Joy Survivor Consultant

Firstly, I want to say that I am so grateful to be part of IJM’s Child-Protective Prosecutions Round Table Discussions. I gained not only knowledge about legal processes, but also friends in the other survivors who participated in the RTDs. We spent months working together, exchanging stories, encouraging, and inspiring each other to use our experience and our voice to be bolder advocates of child protection. This report is important to me because of the memories it keeps of this survivor engagement experience.

But more than that, this report is important because it provides a documentation of the process of survivor engagement and can be used by others as a template for their own survivor engagement initiatives. I invite government workers, justice practitioners, and non-governmental organizations to read this paper and to partner with us. This report shows that survivors are willing and capable of participating in big discussions and are not afraid to share their stories in pursuit of better justice systems. Together, we can create change. I also invite survivors to read this report. I want to let you know that you are not alone in this fight. You are more than your pain. Your voice matters. You will heal, like we did. And you will help others heal too. Thank you, IJM’s Center to End Online Sexual Exploitation of Children for engaging us, guiding us, and partnering with us. Thank you, Atty. Angeli for documenting this experience.

Liberty Survivor Consultant

The most meaningful way to engage survivors is to include us in discussions where we can freely share our thoughts and insights based on our lived experience. I truly believe that we can create significant change and impact justice systems through our contributions. We bring to the table our own knowledge and understanding of issues, and we are able to comment on existing systems or proposed solutions based on experience.

This report shows how IJM's Center to End Online Sexual Exploitation of Children engaged us and included us in discussions, meaningfully and ethically.

Like the engagement, this report integrates survivor voice. I am greatly encouraged to read the powerful insights of survivors included in this report and very excited for what the readers will take away from it. I commend Atty. Angeli Romero, who approached this task with the greatest of care to protect the integrity of the message of each survivor. She purposefully wrote the report to be accessible to everyone; it is easy to read and understand. This report was written to provide an example of meaningful, ethical and successful survivor engagement for partners, organizations, and agencies who also want to engage survivors and champion survivor voice. It is my deepest desire that this report will be received with delight and shared widely.

Ruby Survivor Consultant

Dear reader, before you dive deep into this report, I want to tell you that all input and validation from survivors written in this paper are based on lived experience. I, myself, am a survivor. Yet I still find myself in awe of my fellow survivors’ determination to participate, to speak out and to step into the spotlight. I feel so honored to be amongst thriving survivors. Coming out and becoming vulnerable to recall unpleasant memories takes a lot of courage and resilience. Personally, I hope our insights, recommendations, and validations will reach not only partners and stakeholders, but also decision makers and leaders who are in the position to make actual changes in the justice system, legal procedures, and policies. A huge thanks to the writer of this study, Atty. Angeli Romero, who creatively initiated and wrote this report; and to IJM's Center to End Online Sexual Exploitation of Children team for engaging us in this project, for seeing us and treating us as subject matter experts.

Executive Summary

International Justice Mission believes that survivor engagement is necessary in any process involving the improvement of legal justice systems, child protection systems, and the broader anti-trafficking movement. Survivor voice must be elevated to speak into policy and program design. This is the way to create real and impactful change – by actively involving those who are directly affected by the gaps in the system. As survivor leadership plays a significant role in strengthening justice systems, there is a need for increased literature and practice-based studies on engaging survivor leaders in program and policy design, including survivor engagement processes and methodologies.

IJM’s Center to End Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (The Center) aims to share learnings from a 6-month survivor engagement project, involving a series of consultations, focus group discussions and public-facing round table discussions (RTDs) on the topic of child-protective prosecutions, based on a study released by The Center entitled Child-Protective Prosecutions: A Strength-Based, Child-Centered Approach to Assess Prosecution Results (Child-Protective Prosecutions study).

Survivor leaders were actively engaged in the review and refinement of the Child-Protective Prosecutions study, and in the presentation of the study in the public-facing Child-Protective Prosecutions RTDs as co-presenters and expert speakers. They participated in various preparatory activities, such as orientations, meetings, rehearsals, debriefings and check-in sessions, leading up to the key engagement events.

This report presents The Center’s learnings from its survivor engagement program in a structured format to offer public and private agencies, service providers, survivor networks and survivor leaders a practical guide for survivor engagement. This report includes a survivor-validated engagement workflow process that may be replicated and adapted for other engagements, a list of effective practices applying The Center’s guiding principles (trauma-informed, survivor-centered, informed consent), concrete examples of the challenges encountered in the process, and outcomes and impact of survivor engagement.

This report is co-authored by survivor leaders Joy*, Liberty*, and Ruby*, and features survivor voice significantly. Throughout the report, survivor feedback, insight and validations are highlighted to give more depth, context and understanding to their experience of the engagement. (*pseudonym)

Guiding Principles

The following principles guided the planning, preparation and execution of all survivor engagement activities throughout the RTD series:

  • Engage survivors in a trauma-informed way.
  • Design activities with a survivor-centered approach.
  • Secure informed consent.

Survivor Engagement Workflow

The Center crafted a workflow based on the analysis of the series of activities throughout the 6-month engagement, carefully identifying a pattern of steps essential in engaging survivors in a trauma-informed and survivor-centered way. This pattern consists of 7 steps:

Step 1. Opportunity
Step 2. Identification & Assessment
Step 3 Informed Consent
Step 4. Survivor Preparation
Step 5. Key Engagement Event
Step 6. Feedback & Debriefing
Step 7. Improvements

*with regular check-in sessions, separate from Feedback & Debriefing


Locate or build opportunities for Survivor Engagement

Identification & Assessment

Identify and assess survivor leaders to engage.

Informed Consent

Commence and maintain the process of informed consent.

Survivor Preparation

Key Engagement Event

Hold main event!

Feedback & Debriefing

Create a safe space for feedback and debriefing


Implement changes based on survivor input

Effective Practices

The Center identified effective practices based on participant feedback and team evaluation. This list is not exclusive; these are practices that stood out and proved effective in creating a safe and efficient environment for the survivor engagement.

Effective Practices


The Center faced and managed a number of practical challenges throughout its survivor engagement program. These challenges fall under three (3) thematic categories:

  • Risk of Triggering Trauma / Re-traumatization
  • Balancing of survivors’ work responsibilities with opportunities for advocacy; and
  • How to properly account and compensate for time and expertise.

Impact of Survivor Engagement on Survivor Leaders Participating

Survivor leaders reacted positively to the engagement. They expressed gratitude for the opportunity to participate in the RTD series, for giving them a platform to speak and to be heard. They felt valued and validated, and the experience encouraged them to embrace their survivor leadership. They described the experience as empowering, confidence boosting, and inspiring.

Survivor Engagement Outcomes

Engaging survivor leaders in the review and refinement of the Child-Protective Prosecutions study and in the presentation of the study to global audiences proved to have an immense effect on the outcomes of the RTD series. The Center achieved not only its objective of promoting child-protective prosecutions globally, but it was also able to:

Survivor engagement is a process. It requires a sustained commitment of time and resources. Ethical, meaningful and effective survivor engagement requires creating safe spaces for dialogue, building relationships of trust and maintaining open communications between the engaging party and the survivor.

It is important for public and private agencies and service providers to value trauma-informed survivor engagement to enable them to create these kinds of opportunities and platforms for survivors. Equally important, survivors and survivor leaders need to understand that they must be protected when they are engaged, that there should be a process of engagement that gives them rights and remedies. This process must always be trauma-informed, survivor-centered, and with their informed consent.


International Justice Mission (IJM) believes that survivor leadership is essential in strengthening justice systems. Survivor leaders are experts and agents of change. Survivor leaders can shape and design policy interventions and become influential advocates because of the unique insight they gain from their lived experience. They have an unmatched understanding of the complexities of the crime, the legal processes, and the policies surrounding it and thus, they are best placed to identify problems and gaps in justice systems and drive improvement throughout its lifecycle.

With the significant role of survivor leadership in transforming justice systems, there is a need for increased literature and practice-based studies on engaging survivor leaders in program and policy design, including survivor engagement processes and methodologies. IJM’s Center to End Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (The Center) aims to support trauma-informed survivor engagement through learnings from its first 6-month survivor engagement project, involving a series of consultations, focus group discussions and public-facing round table discussions on the topic of child-protective prosecutions. This report presents a summary of The Center’s survivor engagement project and analysis of its core values, provides a replicable and adaptable survivor engagement workflow, and identifies The Center’s effective practices throughout the engagement, as affirmed and validated by survivor consultants in subsequent focus group discussions after the original engagement. It details the practical challenges of engaging survivors, and The Center’s response to these challenges. It presents an analysis of the impact of the activities on the survivor leader participants, and the outcomes of the engagement. Where possible, illustrative examples are given to demonstrate how The Center carried out specific activities and principles. Where available, feedback and insight of survivor leaders Joy*, Liberty*, and Ruby* are quoted to give more context and understanding to their experience of the engagement. (*pseudonym) Simply, this paper offers private and public service providers, survivor advocates and anti-trafficking practitioners a practical guide on engaging survivors as expert consultants in the review, design and improvement of services, policies, and programs. This report is offered to the community to be used and contextualized for the creation of more opportunities for survivor engagement, in the Philippines and around the world.

This report uses the terms ‘survivor’ and ‘survivor leader’. A ‘survivor’ is a person who is no longer in a situation of abuse or exploitation.1 A ‘survivor leader’ is a survivor who is empowered to advocate for safer communities through justice systems; they are engaged as leaders who can shape programs or projects through their direct contribution.2 ‘Survivor engagement’, as used in this report, refers to the inclusion and active participation of survivors of child sexual abuse and exploitation in the development, design and delivery of a project, program, or policy. It entails working with survivors, rather than working for them.

This report is divided into the following sections:

  • Background of The Center’s Survivor Engagement Initiative
  • Survivor Engagement Workflow
  • Effective Practices of Survivor Engagement
  • Challenges of Survivor Engagement
  • Impact of Survivor Engagement
  • The Way Forward
1 Philippine Survivor Network Operations Manual (2022)
2 Philippine Survivor Network Operations Manual

Background: The Center's Survivor Engagement Initiative

In November 2021, The Center released a study entitled Child-Protective Prosecutions: A Strength-Based, Child-Centered Approach to Assess Prosecution Results (Child-Protective Prosecutions study). The Child-Protective Prosecutions study was written to offer the global child protection community a reliable method to measure and improve case results and affirm partners leading the way in child protection. It outlines a child-rights framework, a strength-based criteria for prosecutions of online sexual exploitation of children, case studies showing strong child-protective outcomes and recommended next steps. The Child-Protective Prosecutions study is built on the idea that the best way to protect children is to uphold their interest.3

The Center conducted a series of round table discussions to promote child-protective prosecutions through dialogues on the lessons from the Child-Protective Prosecutions study, live input from stakeholders, discussion with sector members in attendance, and recognition of agencies with exemplary child-protection results. Each iteration of the round table discussion (RTD) was intended to shape and improve the next, and expand the audience base. The first round table discussion (RTD 1) had an internal IJM audience. The second round table discussion (RTD 2) had a larger Philippine and Asia Pacific audience, and the third round table discussion (RTD 3) had a wider global audience. For each iteration, local and international government partners and stakeholders were invited as resource speakers and reactors.

How were survivor leaders engaged in the Child-Protective Prosecutions Round Table Discussion series?

Survivor leaders were actively engaged in the review and refinement of the Child-Protective Prosecutions study, and in the presentation of the study in the public-facing Child-Protective Prosecutions RTDs as co-presenters and expert speakers. They participated in various preparatory activities, such as orientations, meetings, rehearsals, debriefings and check-in sessions, leading up to the key engagement events, i.e. the Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and the RTDs. All survivor leader participants were survivors of child sexual abuse and exploitation and were above the age of 18 at the time of engagement. Table 1 itemizes the activities throughout the RTD survivor engagement series.

3 Lawrence Aritao and Paulene Labay, ‘Child-Protective Prosecutions: A Strength-Based, Child-Centered Approach to Assess Prosecution Results’ (International Justice Mission Center to End Online Sexual Exploitation of Children November 2021).

  • Initial Planning Session

  • Selection of Participants & Focus Group Discussion Preparations

  • Orientation Session

  • Focus Group Discussion 1

  • FGD 1 Feedback & Debriefing

  • RTD 1 Selection of Participants, Preparations & Rehearsals

  • RTD 1 Orientation for Cebu-based Survivor Leaders

  • RTD 1 Orientation for Manila-based Survivor Leaders

  • RTD 1 Preparatory Session with Survivor Leaders

  • Technical Rehearsal

  • Final Rehearsal and Run-through

  • RTD 1: IJM audience

  • RTD 1 Feedback and Debriefing

  • RTD 2 Selection of Participants, Preparations & Rehearsals

  • One-on-one Rehearsals with Survivor Leaders

  • Small Group Rehearsals with Survivor Leaders

  • Online Run-through

  • Technical Rehearsal

  • RTD 2: Philippines & Asia-Pacific audience

  • RTD 2 Feedback & Debriefing

  • RTD 3 Selection of Participants, Preparations & Rehearsals

  • Focus Group Discussion 2 (session 1)

  • Focus Group Discussion 2 (session 2)

  • FGD 2 Feedback & Debriefing

  • Online Run-through

  • Technical Rehearsal

  • RTD 3: Global audience

  • RTD 3 Feedback & Debriefing

Survivor Engagement Workflow

Guiding Principles

The following principles guided the planning, preparation and execution of all survivor engagement activities throughout the RTD series:

  1. Engage survivors in a trauma-informed way.
  2. Design activities with a survivor-centered approach.
  3. Secure informed consent for key engagement events.

Trauma-Informed care

Trauma-informed care is a strengths-based framework grounded in an understanding of trauma and responsiveness to its impact. It emphasizes physical, psychological and emotional safety for providers and survivors and creates opportunities for survivors to rebuild a sense of control and empowerment.4 It encompasses an understanding of the prevalence of trauma, its impact on survivors, and the complex path to recovery.5

Protocols for trauma-informed approach to engaging survivors must be set in place to pre-empt and to address any distress that might arise during the activities throughout the engagement. During discussions, participants should not be required to recount or reflect upon their specific experiences of abuse or exploitation. The decision to share insights arising from their lived experience relevant to the discussion should be left to the discretion of the survivor.

The engagement was trauma-informed in the way that participants are given space to process their thoughts and emotions after every discussion, informed consent is secured prior to FGD/RTD and they are encouraged to only share what they are comfortable with.


We were never forced to discuss or share our experience of abuse in any of the activities, to prevent any re-traumatization. In the times we chose to share our experience, there was always a debriefing session after the activity.


Care was taken in choosing words to use in the drafting of our scripts and talking points for the RTDs, the words don’t make us feel re-traumatized. Positive affirmations during debriefing sessions was very trauma-informed way of treating participants.


4 Hopper, E. K., Bassuk, E. L., & Olivet, J. (2010). Shelter from the storm: Trauma-informed care in homelessness services settings. The Open Health Services and Policy Journal, 3, 80–100).

5 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, ‘SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach’ (US Department of Health and Human Services 2014)

Survivor-Centered Approach

UNICEF provides a clear explanation of ‘survivor-centered approach’ – A survivor-centred approach aims to put the rights of each survivor at the forefront of all actions and ensure that each survivor is treated with dignity and respect.

By putting the survivor at the centre of the process, such an approach promotes their recovery, reduces the risk of further harm and reinforces their agency and self-determination.

Practicing a survivor-centred approach means establishing a relationship with the survivor that promotes their emotional and physical safety, builds trust and helps them to restore some control over their life. 6

It was survivor-centered shown by the fact that they ask for our input, which comes from lived experience and survivor voices are given importance. We are treated as experts when our inputs are being asked. Our opinions are validated and [our recommendations are implemented and] can be seen through produced materials.


In every RTD activity, rehearsals, debrief sessions, we were always assisted on our concerns. We felt that we are being prioritized and important. We were always being assessed of our feelings and needs during those activities.


6 UNICEF and Women’s Refugee Commission, ‘Caring for Survivors: A Principled Approach’

Informed Consent

Informed consent is a process by which a potential participant is informed about the details, risks and benefits of participation, and by which they freely decide whether to participate. Informed consent is usually documented through a consent form, which contains confidentiality policies and use of the information provided, the right to choose their level of participation, the right to choose how much personal information can be used, the right to end participation, and even the right to rescind consent. The consent form is an agreement between the engaging party and the survivor outlining the roles and responsibilities they are taking towards one another throughout the whole engagement. It is a form of protection and a source of rights and remedies. This must be explained clearly and thoroughly with participants prior to the engagement. The consent form must include information on whether participants will receive remuneration or not.

Through the informed consent process, we can identify a survivor’s interest level in the engagement. If they are interested, they will read and review the consent form thoroughly and ask questions about it. This is very important because it gives the survivor an idea about the engagement – what to expect and what is required of them… and from there, they can discern if they are ready to participate in the activity. Informed consent is also important because each survivor has different preferences in terms of how much they are willing to share and what they will allow to be publicly shared.


Crafting a Survivor Engagement Workflow

Under this tripartite framework and practice of care, The Center improved its processes with each RTD iteration. An analysis of the activities throughout the 6-month engagement reveals a pattern of steps essential in engaging survivors in a trauma-informed and survivor-centered way. This pattern consists of 7 steps (see Diagram 1):

  1. Opportunity
  2. Identification & Assessment
  3. Informed Consent
  4. Survivor Preparation
  5. Key Engagement Event
  6. Feedback & Debriefing
  7. Improvements

The Center’s Survivor Engagement Workflow was validated by survivor leaders who participated in the Child-Protective Prosecutions RTD series.

Diagram 1: Survivor Engagement Workflow Diagram 1. IJM’s Center to End Online Sexual Exploitation of Children Survivor Engagement Workflow.

Step 1: Opportunity

The first step in the workflow is the identification of opportunities to engage survivor leaders. Opportunities can be found in research projects, policy review, process design, program improvement, advocacy events, among others. Some projects may naturally require the input of surivors. Other projects might not immediately appear to require survivor input, but may benefit greatly from the expertise of survivor leaders and open doors for them to provide unqiue insights.

Survivor engagement may take the form of, but is not limited to, the following:

  1. Engaging survivors as consultants in the review and improvement of products, services, policies, and programs.
  2. Engaging survivors through one-on-one interviews.
  3. Engaging survivors to participate in Focus Group Discussions.
  4. Engaging survivors to participate in Round Table Discussions.
  5. Engaging survivors as public speakers.
  6. Engaging survivors as project leaders.
  7. Engaging survivors as co-creators.

The Center refined the Child-Protective Prosecutions Study through survivor engagement on the recommendation of Senior Lead, Aftercare Development Karen Asuncion Esguerra.

Engaging Survivor Leaders

The Center was able to connect with and engage survivor leaders through the Philippine Survivor Network (PSN), an inclusive program for survivors of child sexual abuse, commercial sexual exploitation, and online sexual exploitation of children, who desire and pursue safe communities through justice systems that protect the most vulnerable people. While the PSN was in its pre-launch phase during the RTD preparations, the Center engaged the network through its focal persons and two local survivor networks composed of founding members of the PSN.

A PSN member is a survivor of violence primarily representing IJM case types of survivors of slavery, violence against women/children, online sexual exploitation of children, child sexual abuse, and human trafficking. However, the PSN may include members who endured other forms of violence. Officially launched in February 2023, the PSN facilitates opportunities for leadership development and advocacy involvement of its members at the community and national levels. 7 The PSN is a local chapter of the Global Survivor Network (GSN), which IJM convened in 2019, and adheres to the standards set by the GSN.

Step 2: Identification & Assessment

The process of identifying survivors who can participate in engagements and advocacy-related activities involves an assessment based on specific criteria and identified risks. The individual should meet the following criteria: 1) A survivor of violence; 2) Desires to advocate for change; 3) Walking towards the path to restoration; 4) Fully understands and consents to their participation and with parent/guardian consent if individual is a minor.

This is followed by a risk assessment conducted by the handling social worker. This is to explore areas that pose risks for the survivor that may impede his/her optimal experience and participation in the activity. Once risks are assessed as minimal, a risk mitigation plan is developed to ensure that the survivor is supported by a safe and enabling environment during the event/activity.

7 Pending the Philippine Survivor Network's domain registration, you may reach the PSN at [email protected]

How did The Center do this?

The Center consulted with IJM social workers on the nomination and selection of survivors who could participate in the RTD series. They are well-positioned to consult with the survivors, and assess their capacity and readiness to engage in the RTD activities. To further safeguard the experience and maximize participation, additional criteria were imposed by The Center in the selection of participants: survivor leaders should be above the age of 18, have the developmental capacity to understand the Child-Protective Prosecutions study, and be able and willing to express their own insights and opinions.

IJM social workers recommended a mix of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) and non-OSEC survivor leaders to participate in the RTD series. The mix of participants allowed for a richer discussion and a comparative analysis of insights and experiences. After the selection process, each survivor leader was formally invited and sent a signed letter invitation from IJM. The invitation contained information about the event: the topic of discussion, how long the discussion will be, the program flow for the event, among other things.

I felt special when I received the invitation because there are a lot of survivor leaders in IJM and I am one chosen to be one of the invitees. I felt that they saw me as someone who can contribute to this activity.


There is value in receiving a formal invitation to participate. I felt that survivor leaders are valued and their participation in the study is important. Including information in the invitation was helpful as it gives the survivor leaders an overview about the activity and what it is about. This helps the survivor to know what to expect and lessen any feelings of uncertainty or anxiety. The invitation we received helped us prepare for the FGDs and RTDs.


In my experience, I appreciated being consulted and asked if I was able, ready and willing to participate in such activities, even before the consent form is given.


Step 3: Informed Consent

When survivors are asked to participate in any engagement where their information is used, survivors must be asked to give their informed consent for the explicit purpose of the engagement prior to participation.8 Informed consent must be given voluntarily after being apprised of all relevant details relating to the scope, purpose, participation, risks and benefits of participation.9 Informed consent is usually documented through a consent form, which contains confidentiality policies and use of the information provided, the right to choose their level of participation, the right to choose how much personal information can be used, the right to end participation, and even the right to rescind consent. Upon recommendation of survivor leaders, the consent form must also include information on whether participants will receive remuneration, honorarium, certificate of attendance, or any similar tokens, for participation in the engagement.

It would be helpful for the survivor to know whether they will be receiving remuneration for participating in the engagement, or if they will be receiving a token of appreciation or a certificate of attendance. It is good for them to know this information at the beginning to prevent any confusion, and to set the expectations of the survivor.


I agree that information about compensation should be included in the consent form to give the survivor leader ample time to decide whether to participate or not. As survivor leaders, we are committed to our advocacy. But at the same time, we need to balance our advocacy with our personal responsibilities and needs.


8 International Justice Mission Survivor Leadership Toolkit, Guidance for Program Teams (2020) Available upon request.

9 International Justice Mission (2020)

How did The Center do this?

All participating survivor leaders were given a consent form prior to the key engagement events. The Center attached an information sheet to the consent form, containing information about the event and an explanation of why participants were invited and what they have to do if they agree to participate. The consent form contained information about how the event will be recorded and how the recording will be used. It gave the participants the option to permit IJM to share the recordings, and decide how the recordings will be shared.10

The Center met with the participants prior to each key engagement event to explain the contents of the consent form and apprise them of the all necessary information about the engagement.

The information in the consent form was clear and helpful, but when I had questions, The Center staff was very accommodating to help us understand. When I received the consent form, I felt excited for the new experience and to meet with other survivor participants. I also felt a little nervous for the engagement activities, hoping to be able to give good answers and contribute to the study.


Participating in this study is challenging and intimidating, that is why understanding why we are invited to take part in this study helps. The information in the Consent Form was very clear and understandable, it gave us an idea on what the activity will be like if we consent to participate. We felt valued because they want to know our recommendations and insights. It made us feel like we are truly leaders.


Sometimes, the survivor overlooks the importance of the consent form, or they don’t have the time to read through the consent form. It is really helpful if the coordinator initiates this practice, explains the choices and confidentiality options that are available for us. In the same way, when renewing our informed consent, it is really very helpful when the options are explained to us again and we are reminded of how we consented in the previous engagement. It encourages us to re-think our choices and assess our growth as leaders.


10 All data and information was stored and utilized in accordance with informed consent provided and data privacy laws. Direct quotes from survivor leaders are used only when speficic written permission was given.

Step 4: Survivor Preparation

Survivor preparation includes all provisions, arrangements and initial activities necessary equip and prepare the participants for the key engagement event.

How did The Center do this?

The Center team carried out a series of activities to prepare survivor leaders for the FGD and RTD engagements. These activities include:

  1. Orientation sessions. In these sessions, survivor leaders were oriented on the details of the upcoming FGD/RTD event, what to expect during the event, and how they could participate in the event. During this time, survivor leaders were encouraged to ask questions about the engagement and to raise concerns they may have with respect to the event or support they may need.
  2. Review sessions. In these sessions, The Center reviewed and explained the key points of the Child-Protective Prosecutions study, clarified any confusing concepts, and answered questions and concerns of survivor leaders about the study and the FGD/RTD event.
  3. Planning and coordination meetings. In these meetings, survivor leaders joined the RTD working committee to finalize event details, roles, tasks, rehearsal dates and other logistic concerns. The RTD working committee was composed of three (3) Center team members assigned as the RTD coordinators and as the fixed set of focal persons to liaise with participants.
  4. Individual meetings and check-in sessions. In these meetings, survivor leaders were given the agency to decide on their level of participation in the FGDs and RTDs (i.e., whether to join as a mere observer or as a participant, and if the latter, what role they wanted to do). Also in these meetings, RTD coordinators worked individually with participants to help them draft their talking points and consulted them on the content of their scripts. RTD coordinators also regularly checked in with each participant to assess their well-being, and to provide support to survivor leaders.
  5. Rehearsal sessions. In these sessions, coordinators helped survivor leaders refine their scripts and practice delivery of their respective messages for the RTDs.
  6. Logistic support provision. The Center provided survivor leaders internet and meal allowance for all meetings attended by them. Technical accessories necessary to attend online meetings were also provided to survivor leaders, such as earphones, phone stands and ring lights.

The orientation sessions were helpful as it gives the participants room for clarifying and asking questions regarding the RTD series. It also gives them ideas on what are the different roles they want to take for the RTD series. Logistic support (meal allowance) was helpful for the survivor leaders because I believe people can comprehend more if the stomach is full.

I think it was helpful to the survivor leaders because it makes us feel that we are important and being cared for. Being provided earphones, phone stands, an ring lights, I felt that we were given importance as I can see that they were prioritizing and attentive to our concerns.

Being able to choose my role and level of participation in the RTD was good because I felt like my role was really fit for me and my script was exactly what I wanted to say and share out. It was very helpful that the participants didn’t have to make their own scripts from scratch but it would be good if participants are informed that some messages are the same with other participants. It should be explained to us more why some of the roles have to reiterate someone else’s scripts as it confused to participants who will present the after them.


Step 5: Key Engagement Event

The key engagement event is the main activity in which the survivor is invited to participate. Examples of key engagement events are interviews, policy consultation, study validation, participation in focus group discussions and round table discussions, and other public speaking engagements.

How did The Center do this?


Nine (9) survivor leaders participated in RTD 1. The first iteration of the RTD series, it was attended by 80 IJM Philippines colleagues. IJM pillar leaders – Aftercare, Prosecution, Investigations and Law Enforcement, and Brand Communications – were invited as resource speakers for a rich cross-sector discussion. RTD 1 was held entirely online. Survivor leader participants attended the RTD from their own homes.


Eleven (11) survivor leaders participated in RTD 2. A majority of the previous speakers chose a different role for RTD 2. RTD 2 was attended by 150 pax from the Philippines, the Asia Pacific region, and from the Middle East. An onsite translator was available to allow survivor leader speakers to share their message in their preferred language (Cebuano or Filipino).

The program included an Open Forum, where majority of the participants spoke and shared about their experience of testifying in court. While RTD 2 was held online, The Center team and all survivor leader participants attended and participated in the RTD from the same venue.


Thirteen (13) survivor leaders participated in RTD 3. Two (2) survivor leaders co-hosted RTD 3 alongside The Center hosts. RTD 3 was attended by 200 pax from the Philippines, the Asia Pacific region, the Middle East, Europe, and America. An onsite translator was available to allow survivor leader speakers to speak in their preferred language. Except for those speaking in the Open Forum, survivor leaders pre-recorded their messages for RTD 3 and attended from their respective homes. RTD 3 was held online. (RTD 3 was meant to replicate RTD 2, but due to budget constraints, The Center had to adjust accordingly.)

[RTD 1] - It was overwhelming yet fulfilling as we were given a chance to speak in public and share our thoughts it feels like we were also advocating for other survivors who will be experiencing the same as we did. My challenge was I am not used to show my face in the camera specially in public.

[RTD 2] - RTD 2 really went well, and it feels like all our hard work paid off as I can see that it was a success. I also appreciate our instant translator for being prompt and accurate in translating answers of the participants to the questions given by the audience.

[RTD 3] - I felt nervous since the audience is from different parts of the globe, yet it was more comfortable and convenient to just present the video recording of our messages rather than doing it live.


Step 6: Feedback and Debriefing

Feedback consultation and debriefing sessions are very important to the survivor engagement process. Survivors and survivor leaders participating in the activities can provide crucial feedback to improve the process and their experience of engagement. This helps create a better engagement experience for them in a trauma-informed and survivorcentered way.

How did The Center do this?

After each key engagement event, The Center conducted a feedback and debriefing session wherein the participants were asked to evaluate their experience, provide feedback on what worked for them and suggest improvements to the process. The information gathered allowed The Center to assess whether their process was trauma-informed and survivorcentered. This, in turn, informed what changes had to be done to improve the process of survivor engagement.

A debriefing session is important as it gives the participants a time to give feedback regarding the overall activity, topics and an opportunity to the facilitators to hear thoughts and feelings of the participants upon joining the RTD. It is helpful because it is the best time to discuss things need to be improved and to prepare for the following RTD discussions. Also, it is helpful in terms of processing the feelings and assessed participants if ever they experienced triggers during the activity.


I appreciate having a debriefing session. It is helpful for me because sharing our experience is a painful memory and the debriefing session can help us to remember that it’s in the past and to think about our present and future. Most of us survivors are very emotional, we feel bad about our experience, so we are glad that this debriefing session helps us to relax.


Maybe it would also be good to add individual feedback sessions after some time has passed from the actual engagement. I say this because of 2 reasons. First, there are some survivor leaders who, although they are already empowered, are still hesitant to give really honest feedback. They fear that if they give feedback that criticizes the event, they will be perceived as ungrateful and not be invited back to participate in the next events. Second, based on my experience, sometimes I get carried away with the response of the other participants or social workers, that I just repeat what they say during the feedbacking session. After some time has passed, I think about the event and realize there are some points that can be improved. But because some time has already passed and also because of the culture of “utang ng loob”, I decide to not bring it up anymore.


Ideally, feedback and debriefing should be done more than once. The first feedback session should be done right after the event. The second feedback session should be done after some time has passed, when the entirety of the experience has sunk in. This is a good time to look back and reflect on what could have been improved in the process of engagement. It may be beneficial for the survivor to feedback and debrief with someone who was not involved in the engagement to enable a more impartial evaluation of the experience. I agree that the participants have a tendency to withhold frank and honest feedback because of the fear that they will not be invited again. It is good to always assure participants that the more honest and candid their feedback is, the better it will be for everybody, because that is how we all improve.

-Jenette J. Carredo, RPm Senior Lead, Aftercare – Survivor Leadership and Advocacy IJM’s Center to End Online Sexual Exploitation of Children

Step 7: Improvement This step involves implementing changes based on survivor feedback to improve the process, policy, or program. As participants, survivors can provide feedback to improve the quality of engagement and experience. Survivors are the best persons to say what ways and processes are secure, safe, and non-triggering for them. Implementation of changes for improvements based on survivor feedback gives them a sense of ownership that empowers them. “When survivors are enabled to identify the changes they want to see and contribute to decision making, the program/project impact is likely to be greater. People who have been involved in designing a project are more likely to feel it is theirs and to take responsibility for it.” 11

11 International Justice Mission (n8) citing The Emergency Capacity Building Project, Impact Measurement and Accountability in Emergencies: The Good Enough Guide (Oxfam GB 2007).

How did The Center do this?

A good illustration of implementing improvements can be seen in the changes The Center made to RTD 2 based on the feedback of survivor leaders on RTD 1.

RTD 1 was held entirely online, which presented logistic challenges for the survivor leader participants joining online, such as poor internet connection and lack of secure location.

I was on way home when it was my turn to speak, to be able to speak, I have to stop over find a place to find a signal--this makes me feel shy to people passing by because I was speaking in English.

We should have one place where we can go to do or deliver our LIVE speech/sharing.

Can we do the event on a weekend? my workplace is very supportive but I feel shy because they really adjust for me. Honestly, if I stay longer in the office, we will arrive home so late – we do not want to arrive home so late.

There were also feedback from survivor leaders requesting for extra preparation and rehearsal sessions for RTD 2:

I would appreciate to have briefings/rehearsals to build self-confidence--more time for 1:1 rehearsals and be given feedback.

We should also have group rehearsals and take turns in practicing speeches to get used to speaking publicly. During group rehearsals, we hope to be coached or given feedback as well.

It would be helpful to have audio or video call rehearsal to build the energy in speaking prior actual event.

To address the logistic concerns, The Center organized RTD 2 as a hybrid event: RTD 2 was still conducted online but the members of The Center, the survivor leaders and the production team (a third-party technology service provider) were physically in the same location. Transportation and accommodation arrangements were made for the participants. Meals were provided. Invitation letters were supplied to survivor leaders who needed to file a leave of absence from work. Honorarium payments were given to all survivor leader participants for their time away from work and family.

In preparation for RTD 2, one-on-one rehearsal sessions were held with each survivor leader to practice delivery of their message with comfort, confidence, and conviction. Group rehearsals were also organized to give survivor leaders a chance to practice in front of a small audience. Technical rehearsals were facilitated and led by the production team at the venue to prepare survivor leaders for the actual event. During the technical rehearsal, the production team focused on making the survivor leaders feel comfortable speaking in front of the camera.

Apart from these changes, The Center also refined the contents of the Child-Protective Prosecutions study based on the recommendations and input of the survivor leaders during the FGD on the study. As the study noted, ‘the risks of retraumatization are high when

victims appear in court to testify against their abusers’. 12    However, in the FGD, some survivor leaders shared that they prefer to testify in court because it is empowering to speak their truth and be heard in a court of law. Thus, the authors of the CPP study adapted and adjusted the assessment methodology in order to accommodate the feedback of the survivor leaders.13

RTD 2 was improved in terms of technical aspect, each speaker presented with more clarity, and the preparatory activities made the participants come out of their comfort zone. I can say that all participants in RTD 2 were really empowered and indeed an advocate. The production team played a big role in making us feel less nervous and look confident in front of the camera. We received feedback from the production team (director) and this helped us improve, feel more prepared to speak with confidence and conviction. Their manner of interaction with us made us feel that we are important and valued. For RTD 2, we had more rehearsals sessions that helped us to become calmer and more comfortable. The rehearsals helped us enhance our pronunciation of words, and know when to pause and slow down, so that we get our message across clearly. We also appreciate the logistical improvements, being accommodate and provided all our needs. It made us feel that we are being prioritized and our presentation is very crucial in this study.


We appreciated the logistical improvements for RTD 2. Even if we had allowance for internet data, some of us still can’t connect because we live far in the province where internet connection is weak and unstable due to rainy weather. Staying in the same venue to participate in the RTD was helpful, and it gave us a chance to bond with other survivor leaders and to get to know them. Being in the same room as the production team and The Center team was good because they guided us through breathing exercises whenever we felt nervous and shy. The production team also taught us how to face the camera, how to position ourselves and how to speak so that the audience will understand what we are saying. All the preparations we did, the one-on-one rehearsals, group rehearsals, technical rehearsals really prepared us for the RTD 2. We appreciate all the efforts of The Center team, and the time they gave us, even adjusting their time to accommodate our schedule…and it resulted in a successful RTD.


12 Aritao and Labay, (n 3)

13 Authors Aritao and Labay added survivor validation in its assessment methodology: a conviction result is considered strongest where (1) records indicate a child was given the maximum available protections or (2) the child victim affirms that they truly felt protected during the proceedings. Thus, in cases where a child testified, if there is data showing that the child felt protected during the proceedings, a positive result then becomes upgraded to a strong result in the assessment of child-protective prosecutions. (emphasis and italics supplied)

Effective Practices

Based on participant feedback and team evaluation, The Center identified ‘effective practices’ that worked best for survivor leaders throughout their engagement in the Child-Protective Prosecution RTD series. This list is not exclusive nor is it the only way forward, but these practices proved effective in creating a safe and efficient environment for the survivor engagement:

Coordination with fixed set of focal persons The Center assigned three (3) team members as RTD coordinators who regularly liaised with the survivor leaders. They acted as the focal persons for The Center, which allowed for streamlined coordination with the participants. The RTD coordinators constantly communicated with the participants for all matters relating to the RTDs over the 6-month engagement. This consistent and open communication built and sustained a relationship of trust between coordinators and participants, in line with the team’s trauma-informed approach.

Coordinating with a fixed set of contact persons was a wise strategy to easily communicate with the participants about their concerns especially if they have changes in their consent forms and they want to change roles for the RTD series. It was easy and convenient for the participants to cast their concerns and questions regarding the upcoming activities.


Regular individual check-in sessions

The RTD coordinators regularly checked in with the survivor leader participants. These check-ins varied from one-on-one video calls to text message exchanges. In these check-ins, RTD coordinators asked the participants how they were feeling about the engagement and what support they need at the moment. These sessions provided an opportunity for participants to share and reflect on their emotions outside of the larger group of participants. These check-ins are separate from the group feedback and debriefing session after each key engagement event.

During the check-in sessions with the participants, I normally start with a question about how they’re doing and how they’re feeling about drafting their script/message for the RTD. In a check-in session with one of the participants, this question gave way for her to share how she's having challenges in completing her task because of personal concerns she was having at home. She also admitted how she felt triggered because of her personal concerns, which in turn affected her focus. After some time of listening, affirming, and helping her manage her triggers, she felt relieved. I offered her some time off from the engagement, to take a break, get some rest, and reminded her that she can withdraw from the engagement anytime if she feels too overwhelmed. The participant thought about it, but later on, she insisted that she wanted to complete her message. She shared with me how much that check-in session was helpful to her to clear her mind. I did some follow-up check-in sessions with her, which helped her gained momentum to complete drafting her message.

We should never underestimate the impact of providing a safe space for survivors to talk and air out their feelings through individual check-in meetings.

-Jenette J. Carredo, RPm
Senior Lead, Aftercare – Survivor Leadership and Advocacy IJM’s Center to End Online Sexual Exploitation of Children

Feedback consultation and debriefing after key events

The Center scheduled feedback and debriefing sessions after each key engagement to speak with the participants about how they felt, what they liked and what they did not like about the activity, how the experience could be improved for them. During these sessions, The Center was able to assess whether any of the participants were feeling triggered or retraumatized, and to address it immediately.

Feedback consultation and debriefing sessions give us room to share our feelings and thoughts. It’s also another way of knowing survivor leaders more. The honest feedbacks from everyone after the RTD are one of the things I appreciate the most. In these sessions, we feel the moral and emotional support from the team and co-participants, and this greatly helps us too.


Timely response & action on feedback

The priority of The Center throughout the engagement was to ensure the physical, emotional, and psychological safety of the participants. The Center did this by modifying its processes and activities according to the input of survivor leaders from the check-in sessions, as well as the feedback and debriefing sessions. Big or small, The Center considered all concerns raised by participants. They responded to each matter by acknowledging it, asking the participant concerned how the matter could be resolved, and working together to find a solution.

We appreciated that the team was quick in attending to our needs, so the participants can fully focus on the activity. They were very accommodating and understanding of each participant’s concerns, especially in terms of signal or internet issues. I felt that we were given importance as I can see that they were prioritizing and attentive to our concerns.


Practice of explaining and renewing informed consent

While similar in format, The Center treated each RTD as a separate and distinct event from previous iterations, necessitating renewal of informed consent. This was done by explaining and reminding participants of the details, risks and benefits of participation and asking anew each time whether they were willing to participate.

It is important to review and renew the informed consent process for each engagement. Often, we just say “our consent remains the same.” But when the social workers or coordinators review the consent form with me and they explain each of the options and confidentiality preferences again, I find myself wanting to change some of my former choices. I realize that I am growing as a survivor leader, that I am now open the option of un-blurring my video when it’s a smaller audience, as compared to before when I was completely closed to the idea of showing my face publicly.


Renewing of informed consent for each RTD is important because it gives participants a chance to make changes in their consent forms. Every time that contents of the consent form is explained to us, we are reminded of the information that we can share or choose not to share. This is important because it should not be assumed that participants will give the same consent. It can happen that in one of the RTD iterations a participant can suddenly become uncomfortable about the things she allows to be shared, for example, when there is someone who knows her in the audience.


Provision of logistic support

Participants were provided with meal and internet allowance for all online meetings and were provided with other accessories necessary to participate in the engagement, such as earphones, phone stands and ring lights. This practice comes from the recognition of the cost burden it takes for survivor leaders to participate in the activities, and the fact that not all participants have the funds to advance payments for these expenses.

The provision of internet allowance was helpful because I do not always have internet data on my prepaid mobile and where I live, there is no store nearby where I can buy data ‘load’. Since this activity is very important for me, it is good that they will provide internet allowance for us so that we will not stress ourselves to look for ‘load’ or to burden others for it. The meal allowance is also helpful because we need to allot focused time for the activities. Most of the participants have work, school and house chores, and with the meal allowance, we don’t need to worry about where we can buy food or who can cook.


Meal allowance is very helpful. I believe people can comprehend more on a full stomach. The internet and meal allowance make us survivor leaders feel that we are important and being cared for


Compensation for time and expertise

The Center provided compensation for the time and expertise of survivor leaders in the form of an honorarium, remunerating them for the time they devoted in preparation for the engagement and attendance in the actual event. Several factors were taken into consideration to calculate the amount of remuneration:

  1. Engagement details
  2. Time (including preparation)
  3. Complexity
  4. Responsibility
  5. Earnings, experience and expertise. 14

I am happy receiving the honorarium because I had to absent myself from work for 3 days for RTD 2 and I am the breadwinner of my family.


Yes, it was a great help to us especially to those who must have to absent from their work just to participate in this beautiful activity. The honorarium really commensurate the time of the participants given to this activity.


14 International Justice Mission (2020)

Onsite translation services

The presence of a translator in the RTDs was crucial in breaking barriers and opening channels of communication. Having a translator allowed survivor leaders to express themselves naturally and in a language they were comfortable with, making them feel more confident to speak to the audience and share their insights.

We appreciated the presence of a translator who was quick and accurate in translating answers of the participants to the questions given by the audience. Having a translator encouraged the survivor leaders to speak up and to share their insights on the spot, because they were not pressured by having to speak in English and they were able to express themselves thoroughly in their preferred languages.


Identification and assessment process

The proper identification and assessment of participants is necessary to safeguard survivors from re-traumatization.

Social workers focus on the individual and collective well-being and empowerment of survivors. Their role is critical in identifying, assessing, and preparing survivors for activities that require their participation. For the RTD series, assessment of the survivors’ readiness and capacity were conducted to identify the needs and potential risks of their engagement. This enabled the social workers to prepare the appropriate material and psychosocial arrangements to support survivor leaders based on their assessed need. Orientation and informed consent-taking were also done with survivor leaders to prepare and ensure a safe and trauma-informed experience. This allowed the survivor leaders to be well informed and motivated to participate.

-Ma. Karen April Asuncion Esguerra, RSW
Sr. Lead, Aftercare Development IJM’s Center to End Online Sexual Exploitation of Children

Dedicated support system Social workers were present in all key engagement events to give support to the participants.

The presence of a social worker helped The Center team in providing an additional layer of support and emotional aid needed by each participant. They were available whenever a participant needed urgent individual attention. In the in-person RTD (RTD 2), one of the participants suddenly felt unwell. She needed to excuse herself during the final rehearsal. She later admitted that she felt anxious during the rehearsals and needed to take a break. The social worker present in the venue helped provide emotional support for the survivor who needed the immediate assistance.

-Jenette J. Carredo, RPm
Senior Lead, Aftercare – Survivor Leadership and Advocacy IJM’s Center to End Online Sexual Exploitation of Children

I would like to commend the social workers who were present throughout the RTD series as they were attentive to our needs and quick to help process feelings of participants who felt overwhelmed during rehearsals.


Survivor agency to decide own level of participation All participants were given the freedom to decide how they were going to participate in the RTD series engagement. No participants were required to speak publicly nor obliged to share personal information.

Nobody obliged me to share anything, but I wanted to share about my experience in court because I think it needs to be shared so people will understand what we went through. Sharing something very personal with the audience was an emotional moment for all of us… but it was also that emotion that connected us to the audience and got our message across. We spoke with conviction because what we were shared was very important to us.


Review of subject matter with participants

Reviewing the subject matter with survivor leaders ensures they have a clear understanding of the topic of engagement. This is especially helpful when the engagement is about law and policy. This is good practice to equip participants with the necessary knowledge and information to be able to meaningfully participate in discussions.

I appreciate how the facilitators explained the topics to the participants. I can see that facilitators are very familiar with the topics and are knowledgeable enough to answer questions and clarifications from participants. It was helpful for the participants that they carefully explained the legal terms and frameworks of the study and gave participants ideas of the upcoming activities.


I like the presentation and discussion about the law. While I studied social work, I don’t remember the laws, and with the presentation and review of the legal concepts, I learned so much about justice and protection that survivorsdeserve. I also like the discussion about plea bargaining and other matter related of law.


[RECOMMENDATION] I like the way how the Child-Protective Prosecutions study was presented and explained to us. The content was easy to comprehend. The graphics and font styles, themes, colors are entertaining and helps me to understand the words. Also, the over-all graphics won’t make us sleepy or bored while reading the content. I would suggest that it would be better if the explanation not all in English or give more examples specially on the terms we do not usually hear (legal terms) for better understanding.


Screening and aligning with third-party service providers

The Center values working with service providers who embody the same professional and cultural ethos, and who understand the needs of the sensitive nature of the engagement. Service providers should be oriented on the guiding principles of survivor engagement and trauma-informed practices to ensure that they perform their service and relate with the participants appropriately.

I would like to commend the production team for doing a great job, not just in the technical aspect, but in making us feel less nervous and comfortable speaking in front of the camera and kudos to the team who facilitated the rehearsals, their affirmation was a big help to the participants. Their manner of relating and communicating with us makes us feel that we are important and valued.



The Center faced and managed a number of practical challenges throughout its survivor engagement program. These challenges fall under three (3) thematic categories:

  1. Managing risks of trauma;
  2. Balancing of survivors’ work responsibilities with opportunities for advocacy; and
  3. How to properly account and compensate for time and expertise.

Managing Trauma Risks

There is a risk of triggering trauma when engaging survivors.

How did The Center address this issue?

The Center ensured that a good support system was available and accessible at all times to the survivor leader participants throughout the engagement. This meant that a social worker, a qualified Center team member, or aftercare staff was readily available before, during and after each activity to listen to and speak with any participant who needed support. In all activities, participants were reminded that they could pause at any time during the discussion and were allowed to leave the room without having to provide any reason. The RTD coordinators who facilitated the activities carefully observed participants during meetings and activities, and sensitively conducted calming and grounding exercises when necessary. No participants were asked to share their personal story or experience.

Safe and ethical survivor engagement can be done. There is more at risk in taking a defensive stance against survivor engagement because survivors want to speak out and they want to be heard. By taking the necessary steps to address, manage and overcome this concern, we can support survivors and amplify their voice.

I felt a sense of relief with every word I spoke. I was able to release the things that happened to me in the past that were not good. Through this study, I was able to release some of the things I felt and there are others with me—I’m not alone; there are people who want to listen to our stories. Even though it is still painful to remember, I choose to think more about how strong I am and to move on from the past, to rise from it and that I am not alone because my family is there, and IJM who is always beside me in all my struggles.

-Azalea, FGD 1 Feedback Session

I’m happy at the same time felt a little bit triggered in the FGD, but I’m excited about the topic and when I heard about this engagement opportunity. I’m very happy because I’m part of this study and I can relate because of what I experienced. So, now, I try to make a new chapter in my life.

-Catleya, FGD 1 Feedback Session

I feel challenged and pressured, at the same time, grateful so that at least they will know our ideas and insights and what are the things that need to be developed and grateful that our recommendations will not be in vain. We feel that we are heard and grateful to be part of this study… It makes us feel intelligent.


Balancing of Survivors’ Work Responsibilities with Opportunities for Advocacy

Survivor engagement is not a one-time consultation. It entails a series of steps and activities conducted over a period of time (see Survivor Engagement Workflow). Survivor engagement requires a commitment of time, not only from the persons organizing the engagement, but also from survivor participants. This presents a few practical challenges and considerations, especially in balancing engagement activities with work, family, and other personal responsibilities of survivor participants.

It was challenging to balance my time since I have a full-time job and I don’t want to stop working because my family needs me, and I am supporting myself. What I did was I always wrote on my note book and calendar what activity that I needed to do so that I don’t forget and I am reminded when I look at my phone.


It was very challenging in terms of availability and balancing my time as a full time medical social worker and as a committed advocate. Since I see it both as my priority, I balance it by doing my tasks as a social worker during the day and just make time to attend and engage in every advocacy opportunity I can outside of work, as I promised to be active and committed in advocating rights.


I would say that the most evident challenge in terms of balancing advocacy vs. work responsibilities is time. Most of the survivor leaders are always willing to be engaged in advocacy. However, due to commitments at work, it is hard for them. This is where giving them an honorarium is very helpful to somehow honor their time and effort, although it does not equate what they earn during the time spent in doing advocacy. Making space during the engagement where they feel protected, comfortable and safe helps them a lot as well. Giving all they need, like transportation support, could help them commit themselves to doing advocacy.


How did The Center address these concerns?

In scheduling meetings and activities, the RTD coordinators considered the individual schedules of the participants. Individual meetings were scheduled around each participant’s availability, which was usually in the evenings of weekdays or on weekends. Group activities were scheduled upon group consensus. Group activities were normally held in the evenings of weekdays.

How can we support survivor leaders in balancing their time for work/family/advocacy?

You can support us by consulting us on our time schedule. However, there are times when there are emergencies at work that I need to attend to, and I feel bad that I have to miss the meeting that was scheduled according to my availability. For us, our best time for advocacy work are weekends or holidays.


I think you can support us by conducting advocacy opportunities on weekends or holidays so we can fully participate and be focused on our tasks.


You could help us by advocating for us, especially those who are not yet comfortable coming forward to say what they need, also encourage them to create boundaries. Sometimes, they may be hesitant to say yes due to schedule complications. However, because Filipinos are culturally “mahiyain” and have a strong sense of “utang na loob”, survivors would say yes and commit, and later just feel better about it. But survivor leaders are experts, and it is very likely that in the future, they will also have requests from other partners not just from IJM. It would be great to practice healthy boundaries.


How can we properly account for expenses and compensate for time and expertise?

There is a cost burden on survivors when they participate in meetings and activities. These include:

  1. Travel expense, if the meeting is in person;
  2. Internet expense, if the meeting is online;
  3. Time taken away from personal responsibilities at home and at work;
  4. Time off work for whole day engagements;
  5. Time away from family for multiple-day engagements.

The Center recognizes that these costs should not be shouldered by the survivors. Thus, The Center advocates for the practice of providing logistic support for all participants, such as meal, internet, travel allowance to enable them to attend meetings. The Center provided monetary renumeration for engagements that required survivors to absent themselves from work and be away from their families, to honor their commitment to their advocacy. In other activities that required less time and effort from participants, The Center showed their appreciation through tokens and gifts.

Giving words of appreciation or a certificate of attendance that we can use for our future work is enough for me


The Center asked our survivor leaders a few questions on this matter to have a better understanding of how they view honorariums and other forms of compensation for survivor engagements:

Were the tokens, honorarium, and other logistics support given commensurate to the time and knowledge you gave during the whole engagement?

Yes, the provision of logistic support is a big help to us. We can attend the activity or meeting and not have to worry how and where to get our meals while attending. It helps us to focus on the task at hand.


Yes, but on the other hand, its more than the token or honorarium that we are thankful for – it’s the opportunity to learn, to grow and the experiences that matter most to us.


Do you think provision of honorarium should be a standard practice in engagements?

Yes, because we also have personal and family needs to meet. While I have a job, I am not yet a regular employee, so I don’t have paid leave days from work. In my situation, it’s no work, no pay. So, if I am absent from work to attend engagements, it will be very helpful to have compensation. However, I want to emphasize that we are doing this not for the compensation but because we want to participate. -Joy

Not all engagements should give honorarium, because it may somehow affect the purity of intention of the advocate. I’m not implying that compensation is the reason why survivors and survivor leaders accept engagements, but there is a possibility that it may taint the survivor’s advocacy intentions if there is always monetary payment. Honoraria should be given for engagements where survivors have a specific role to play, which would need time preparing. For example, in speaking engagements, or when they are given documents to study and provide inputs later. However, when it’s simply listening to presentations during meetings and participating in breakout rooms, meal, transportation and internet allowance will suffice. Or when the engagement calls for us to attend training workshops, wherein we are the ones who will benefit from the activity, it would be better to receive tokens of appreciation or certificate of attendance, rather than monetary compensation.


I agree with Ruby. However, I also need to say that receiving monetary compensation is also very practical in some cases, especially when the survivor participating in the engagement is a student. For students who do not have a source of income, receiving money instead of tokens gifts is more useful. They can use this to buy schools supplies and other needs. Scholarships usually do not provide allowance for miscellaneous school needs, so receiving monetary compensation from engagements will benefit them.


How can we properly account for time?

It is ideal to inform survivors at the earliest stage (in the consent form) whether they will be compensated. This will help us decide whether we will be able to participate or not. While we are committed to our advocacy, we also need to balance it with our personal responsibilities and family’s needs. For example, I need to consider whether the engagement will require us to take a leave from work, and this will have a monetary impact on me and my family. I need to balance that. For me, it would be fair if we were compensated according to our daily income, if the engagement requires us to absent ourselves from work. This applies to individual engagements.


Our advocacy does not depend on the monetary compensation. However, it is definitely a big help to us if we are compensated for our time. For group engagements like the RTDs, where there are several survivor participants, it would be good if everybody receives an equal amount of honorarium to prevent comparison and conflict amongst the survivors, even if this amount is lower than our daily income. We appreciate that we are valued and honored through the provision of honorarium, but we also take home with us new learnings, friendships and an experience that is priceless.


This is not an exhaustive list and only details some of the challenges encountered by The Center. Through this experience, The Center learned that the key to addressing and overcoming challenges in survivor engagement is to consistently check in with the participants to identify problems or needs at the earliest instance, explore solutions with them, and implement changes promptly and accordingly.

Impact of Survivor Engagement

The Center incorporated survivor engagement in its Child-Protective Prosecutions Round Table Discussion series, where survivor leaders were actively engaged as experts and advocates.

During the 6-month project, survivor leaders reviewed, critiqued, and provided recommendations to improve the Child-Protective Prosecutions study and presented their recommendations and insights from lived experience to national, regional and global audiences.

Survivor engagement was instrumental to the development of the Child-Protective Prosecutions study as a credible and effective tool for justice system practitioners and stakeholders to measure and improve prosecutions for stronger child-protective outcomes. Survivor leaders validated the study through the focus group discussions and shared valuable insights based on experience.

One of the notable discussions with survivor leaders was on the topic of the best interest of the child. The study advocates for child-protective prosecutions by upholding the child’s best interest. In prosecutions, child victims are discouraged to appear in court to testify against their abusers because the risk of re-traumatization is high. 15

In an FGD, survivor leaders were asked ‘Is it in the best interest of the child to testify as a witness in court?’ There was a mix of opinions on this question, but the discussion revealed that some survivor leaders prefer to testify in court, but in a separate room from the perpetrator. For them, telling their story in a court of law is a way to be heard, is a form of release, and a source of empowerment. As a result, the assessment methodology in the Child-Protective Prosecutions study was amended to include the survivor's assessment of their experience, or indications of their sentiments, whenever such data was available from the records.

It is so exciting and inspiring to be able to join opportunity such as this. It is a rare opportunity, and I am thankful to be given a chance to speak up…I felt a sense of relief with every word I spoke. I was able to [express and] release the things that happened to me in the past that were not good. Through this study, I was able to release some of the things I felt and [it feels good to know] there are others with me, that I’m not alone, and that there are people who want to listen to our stories.

-Azalea, FGD 1 Feedback Session

I’m happy that we can participate in discussions like this and increase our knowledge on how we can protect ourselves and, of course, other children who might be vulnerable to this kind of harm. Now, I have more appreciation for the people who helped me before, and now I understand and believe that we are not alone and that the law is on our side to give justice to what happened to me or to us. This study will be very useful and helpful for victims of abuse, to protect them from re-traumatization in court. This study can also help prepare children for the trial, so that they understand what they will be going through.

-Diana, FGD 1 Feedback Session

The Center’s survivor engagement experience confirmed that survivor leaders are powerful advocates who can mobilize communities and influence stakeholders. Through the advocacy leadership of survivor leader participants in the RTDs, The Center was able to build a strong and effective global awareness campaign on child-protective prosecutions. The Center was also able to demonstrate and prove to stakeholders and implementing partners the impact and value of child-protective prosecutions through the affirmation of survivor leaders.

I am glad to see that the Philippines has taken great and long way in achieving protection to victims and witnesses in cases of trafficking. We in Egypt are still in the beginning of such way, therefore it is very beneficiary for me to attend such roundtable. Thanks again IJM for inviting me to this.

-Ramy Moustafa, Chief Judge, Egyptian Judiciary

It is an incredible approach to include survivors. Including survivors and children and listening to them help us craft better recommendations for their protection. Even the process of investigation is traumatizing. We should exclude children from testimony. The study is applicable to any country.

-Lt. Col. Dana Humaid, Ministry of Interior, UAE

I am so incredibly grateful for the invite to this session today. I have learnt so much. Thank you especially to the survivor leaders for sharing. It is so important that your voices are heard.

-Gina Bekker | Modern Slavery Law Clinic (Monash University)

15 Aritao and Labay (2021)

Impact of Survivor Engagement on Survivor Leaders

There was an overall positive reaction and feedback from the participants after the 6-month survivor engagement. Survivor leaders expressed gratitude for the opportunity to participate in the RTD series, for giving them a platform to speak and to be heard. They felt valued and validated, and the experience encouraged them to embrace their survivor leadership. They described the experience as empowering, confidence boosting, and inspiring.

At the end of the RTD series engagement, The Center asked the survivor leaders a few questions to evaluate their experience.

Reflecting on the past 6 months, starting from the first FGD, how do you feel about yourself and this journey? Do you feel that you've grown as an individual? If yes, how did you grow?

When I participated in the RTD series engagement, I proved to myself that I can do it, that I can conquer my fears.


I felt really nervous at first. But when it was my turn to speak, I felt a confidence within me. I realized that I can actually do it! I am very happy that I was able to join and experience the RTDs.


I am so thankful that my confidence is boosted because of this event, and now I am able to speak in gatherings.


I found the engagement very helpful because I gained confidence in the process. The RTDs helped me especially to learn how to speak publicly.


Real talk – at first, I really didn’t want to join the RTDs. I had a lot of doubts. I didn’t want to think about and remember what happened to me in the past. But after I joined, I felt such a big improvement in myself. I learned how to speak well. And all my doubts about participating in the RTDs vanished. We were never treated like “others” and it felt like I was part of a big family.


At first, I didn’t know what to expect in the RTD engagement. But after the RTDs series, I felt very empowered, and I felt that I was really an advocate. During the discussions, I felt that our insights were heard and that our suggestions were valid and valued. I grew not just professionally, but also personally.


At first, I was very overwhelmed… The study was explained to us, we were taught how to speak publicly and techniques to lessen our nervousness. I am feeling very proud because we managed it! Very proud and happy because we never knew we could accomplish this. Because of the RTDs and the other activites, we realize that it is possible to step out of our comfort zones. It is very empowering and now know that we can do more.


What do you think went well in the RTD engagement? What part did you enjoy the most?

My favorite moments were the actual RTD events. It felt good that a lot of people were listening to us, and it was so enjoyable to read their feedback and comments to our sharing. It encouraged us more to share and boosted our confidence.


My favorite moments were all the times when survivor leaders were speaking. When we were speaking, the RTD attendees were really listening to us, interested in what we had to say about the study and was very appreciative of our insights. I also enjoyed listening to the Open Forum portion, where questions given impromptu and answers were not scripted.


My favorite part of the engagement was when everyone (survivor leaders) spoke. Everytime we spoke, we felt braver and stronger. We all went through difficulty, and to speak in front of the camera and in front of many people is not easy for us. That’s why we are all so proud of ourselves.


I have a lot of favorite moments throughout the RTD series. One of them is having rehearsals, especially the rehearsals in person for RTD 2, where there was a camera set up. I am so thankful I was able to experience that. I also enjoyed engaging with other survivor leaders, and feeling their support… supporting each other.


I really enjoyed the flow of the event… It was programmed in a way that really recognized us survivor leaders. I also appreciated the support during the preparations for the RTDs, providing us with scripts to make sure that we are able to express everything we want to share.


There were a lot of learnings for us, and we can share these learning to others. We made a lot memories, something that we will look back on with fondness. I also really enjoyed attending meetings, discussing and exchanging thoughts and insights. It felt like such a safe environment, it felt like we were talking amongst friends and family. I enjoyed the engagement experience as a whole, and it felt good to be able to share to others, and to hear from them words of encouragement and affirmation. Those words gave us confidence in ourselves. I also appreciated everyone in the team – from the director of the production team, the social workers, and Center team members – for preparing us well and making us feel comfortable. Everybody was approachable and everybody was rooting for us to be able to express what we wanted to say


Impact Indicators

Apart from the feedback given by survivor leaders, The Center identified indicators to assess the impact of survivor engagement. These are based on the observations of the RTD coordinators on the behaviors, statements, and actions of the participants throughout the 6-month survivor engagement.

  1. There was a collective desire on the part of survivor leaders to improve in public speaking. Following RTD 1, there were similar requests from survivor leaders to schedule more practice sessions and group rehearsals to help them speak slowly and clearly, pronounce words correctly and confidently, and manage their nerves for the next RTDs.

  2. Across the RTD iterations, participation level increased. RTD 1 had nine (9) survivor leader participants. RTD 2 had eleven (11) survivor leader participants. RTD 3 had thirteen (13) survivor leader participants.

  3. Survivor leaders chose their own roles for each RTD iteration. A majority of survivor leaders chose to change roles for each RTD iteration to be able to experience a different task and to challenge themselves to be better. In fact, for RTD 3 (global audience), 4 survivor leaders offered to co-host the event. Eventually, 2 of them hosted the program, while the 2 others were standby hosts.

  4. Survivor leaders valued having their own unique scripts and talking points. This shows a stake of ownership in their own messages and a genuine intent to add value to the RTD.

I was alarmed when my script seemed similar with another survivor’s script. I would really appreciate it if I am informed that my script will be similar with other speakers’ scripts. I did not want to share something that has already been said, and it will also help me understand my role in the RTD.

-Liberty, RTD 1 Feedback Session

  1. There was an increased interest to learn more about legal concepts and procedures. During the 2nd FGD on the Child-Protective Prosecutions study, survivor leaders were keen to understand how plea bargaining worked and there was a healthy discussion on the “fairness” of plea bargaining with regard to the perpetrator receiving a lighter penalty. There was also a lively discussion on victim compensation and compensatory damages.
PresenterCrystal, Avery, Dina
ReactorMirashel, Jaika, Maeley
Open Forum SpeakerAzalea
Engagement Experience SpeakerAvery
Closing SpeakerMarj, Liberty
Chatbox ReactorN/A

The Way Forward

Will there be future RTDs that we can join? If we can’t join as RTD participants, can we attend as audience members and still share our insights by sending our comments in the chat box (if the RTD is online)? This engagement… participating in the activities and in the RTD… has been such a huge help to me, I am grateful. If in the future, there is an opportunity for us to join another RTD engagement, may I suggest an in-person event like RTD 2, because it was really such a wonderful time to be together and to bond with each other. We don’t have to stay in a fancy hotel or spend a lot of money… we don’t mind a small venue, as long as we are together. I will really miss the camaraderie and I really felt happy when we were all physically together. It was a beautiful experience. Thank you so much for this opportunity.

-Diana, RTD 3 Feedback Session, translated from Tagalog

International Justice Mission believes that survivor engagement is necessary in any process involving the improvement of legal justice systems, child protection systems, and the broader anti-trafficking movement. Survivor voice must be elevated to speak into policy and program design. This is the way to create real and impactful change – by actively involving those who are directly affected by the gaps in the system.

In recent years, survivor engagement has gained traction within the anti-trafficking movement. Practitioners are realizing the value of survivor leadership and advocates are calling for the normalization of survivor engagement. The Center supports this call by contributing to a growing body of literature on how to engage survivors in a trauma-informed way.

Next steps for the Center include working directly with the Philippine Survivor Network to refine its survivor leader onboarding processes and modules, and to further improve the Survivor Engagement Workflow with its current cohort of survivor consultants.

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