National Human Trafficking Awareness Day
AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - According to the Texas Attorney General's Office, “Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. It's the exploitation of men, women, and children for forced labor or sex by a third-party for profit or gain.”
Steven Phenix is the communications director for The Refuge for DMST (domestic minor sex trafficking), which is a non-profit organization.
In August 2018, The Refuge for DMST has developed what's called The Refuge Ranch in Bastrop.
The Refuge Ranch is a long-term, residential, therapeutic community for 48 girls, minors through age 19, who have been rescued from sex traffickers. It's the largest long-term, live-in rehabilitation facility for child survivors of sex trafficking in the united states.
The Polaris Project, Texas has the second most reported number of child sex trafficking cases in the nation. "They ask when they hear this, is it because we are close to the border? Most of these kids are domestic, US State Department and two different reports say 88 to 93 percent of these kids are from the United States. Texas is number 2 because of the size of our population,” Phenix says.
January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
But for many advocates human trafficking is something they promote to fight against every day, year round. "Before we opened Texas only had 24 beds and now with our 48 Texas now has 72. There is no rescue without restoration."
DMST is able to receive these women through several agencies like the department of juvenile justice, child protective services, and law enforcement.
But once they get there it's not an easy adjustment. Phenix says, "The trauma they've endured trauma that completely rewires them and their developing brains."
The Texas Attorney General’s Office also says, child sex trafficking is the fastest growing crime in the world. Steven Phenix says in order to spread awareness, simply pay closer attention to our youth. "Majority of these kids come from foster care but the common denominator from all children is they suffer from low self-esteem. Get off the phone, pay attention to your kid, period."