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The Cost of Caring

cost of caring

Secondary Trauma. It is defined by psychologists as “the emotional duress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand trauma experiences of another. Its symptoms mimic those of post-traumatic stress disorder.” Secondary trauma is one more way that sex trafficking victimizes. Only these victims are not themselves survivors of sex trafficking. They are the caregivers of survivors. They are the police, the case workers, the counselors, and staff of aftercare centers and programs. They are heroes.

Much attention has been given to survivors of trafficking, and rightfully so! Their experiences showcase some of the worst things that human beings do to one another, robbing people of dignity, agency, and hope. For many survivors, the consequences of their experiences are lifelong and can significantly impair their ability to live a normal life. What is less understood is the affects of being a caregiver of traumatized people, especially the kind of caregiver whose role is to listen to the details of horrible abuse from the perspective of the one who experienced it. In fact, what makes a caregiver good at his or her job is compassion, and it is exactly this compassion that can lead to the undoing of that caregiver’s own mental health.

As I interact with people investing their lives in the care of survivors, I am deeply aware of the price that they are paying personally. They do not have to put themselves at risk, yet they do. Every. Single. Day. They show up; they listen; they absorb anger; they pray; and they cry their own tears of powerlessness. And then they wake up the next day to do it again.

Dark Bali is a network of these heroes. We are aware that not everyone is given the privilege or responsibility for carrying the stories of survivors and victims of human trafficking, and we do not regret our place in these stories. What we do ask for is that as we carry the traumas of the ones in our care, you would help carry ours. Will you come alongside us and ensure that we have what we need to do the work that is ours to do?  Maybe if we all share the burden of the stories of Indonesia’s sex trafficking victims and survivors, our movement will grow and our vision to see sex slavery abolished and the lives of survivors restored will be accomplished.


(As an organization primarily focused on equipping those on the frontlines, Dark Bali honors caregivers who continue to serve, sometimes at great personal cost. While these heroes care for survivors, we care for them by providing training on important topics like trauma, therapeutic techniques, and burnout/secondary trauma. To partner with Dark Bali in order to serve all of our coalition partners, contact us or become a financial partner.)

How Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts Work

How Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts Work (6)

While strategies are certainly nuanced, we can generalize the categories of responses needed to effectively address human trafficking. A helpful way of thinking about anti-trafficking work is breaking it down into its 4 major categories: advocacy, prevention, intervention, and rehabilitation.

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The Truth About Recovering From Child Sexual Exploitation

The Truth About Recovering from Child Sexual Exploitation

To care for a child leaving the commercial sex industry, a caregiver absolutely must think in terms of holistic care. We have to realize that brain development has been compromised and slowed. We have to realize that basic things like autonomy, self-awareness, and personal boundaries have sometimes never been learned. We have to realize that in addition to the literal and figurative demons that child survivors face, they are fighting with their own bodies for basic health. So with these realizations, we are back to our first question: how long does it take to see a child survivor heal?

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After Aftercare

After Aftercare

Caring for child survivors of sexual trafficking is multi-faceted. In the initial days, we deal with things like acute medical needs, family services, and legal procedures. But slowly life takes on a rhythm, trust is built, and the deeper wounds are cared for. Trauma for sexually exploited children runs deep, and it is not something that any aftercare program can ever fully and perfectly address. Aside from the necessary mental, emotional, and spiritual healing, a good aftercare program has to think about a child’s future.

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I Saw You

How Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts Work (4)

I saw you with your face turned toward the street as the person in charge of you hungrily scanned the crowd to see who would eventually notice you. Who came all the way here just to feed on your soul and ravage your body

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Human Trafficking, Adaptation, & COVID-19

Human Trafficking, Adaptations, & COVID-19

Human traffickers are clever and adaptive, changing with their evolving landscapes to keep their profits ever-increasing through the exploitation of human beings. The response must be equally smart and flexible…

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Sex Trafficking as a Capitalist System: Part 2

How Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts Work (2)

If making the global sex trade less profitable is the cornerstone to the dismantling of the industry itself, it is important to know where the best place is to focus those efforts. As noted in part 1, the supply chain of the sex industry has four parts: the product, the wholesalers, the retailers, and the buyers. In the sex trafficking supply chain, the first two parts are the most resistant to intervention.

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Sex Trafficking as a Capitalist System: Part 1

How Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts Work (1)

Put in economic terms, sex trafficking is a supply chain with a supply side and a demand side. The two parts of the supply side are the product (sexual services) and wholesalers (traffickers involved in recruitment and transfer). Retailers (traffickers involved in sales such as brothel employees, pimps etc.) and customers (those that pay for sex) make up the demand side

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Why Child Trafficking Survivors Obey

Why Child Trafficking Survivors Obey

Obedience can be a product of fear, and to be frank, child survivors are very good at this kind of obedience. They know exactly what it is like to do something only because they know the threat behind the command to obey. This is not the kind of obedience that we want in our aftercare centers. Children that obey merely because they fear the consequences are not healed children.

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The Truth About Survivor Success Stories

How Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts Work (3)

When there is no longer a need to find food and shelter and physical safety, they have to wrestle with questions of their own value and the implications of what has been done to them. I cannot begin to describe how difficult this process is for a survivor.

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