2021 Blog

The Refuge for DMST, a place of healing and hope!

The Refuge Ranch is a place unlike any other. Located right outside Austin, TX in Bastrop County, The Refuge works on the restorative side of sex trafficking and provides holistic treatment services for girls who have been sexually exploited with the goal of providing a home and place for rest and healing post-trafficking. The Refuge has the same mission as Pedal the Pacific: to fight for a world where girls and their bodies aren’t for sale.

I got plugged into Pedal the Pacific and the fight against sex trafficking in different ways, with one way being The Refuge Ranch. For the past few years, my family has been volunteering here and seeing one way in which there has been significant progress against domestic human trafficking, for the Refuge that is on the side of recovery and restoration for survivors. The Refuge for DMST (Domestic Minors in Sex Trafficking) is 1 of 2 beneficiaries of PTP and has the mission to “provide trauma-informed, long-term restoration community with on-site services for girls, minors through age 19, who have been exploited through sex trafficking.”

History and Facts

Before the opening of the Refuge in the last few years, there were less than 24 beds available in Texas for child sex trafficking survivors to receive long term care for their trauma. The Refuge is open to girls across the country but is particularly important for several reasons:
  • Texas has the second most reported number of child sex trafficking cases in the U.S, with Houston being the worst city in the United States for reported child sex trafficking cases.
  • Prior to the opening of the Refuge, only 24 beds were available for child sex trafficking survivors for long term recovery. The Refuge fills helps with the national need for support for child survivors as less than 600 beds are available nationwide for child survivors.
The Refuge has a unique model and provides holistic and trauma-informed care through the Circle of Care. The Circle of Care supports survivors through on-site services; girls receive psychiatric services, spiritual guidance, social activities, and medical care, educational services through the University of Texas Charter School System. A total of 43 girls have been cared for by the Refuge Ranch since it opened and the progress made has shown hope that there is healing from trauma faced by survivors of sex trafficking.

Even though the primary purpose of the The Refuge Ranch is to provide a place of healing for survivors rather than provide resources to learn more about sex trafficking in the U.S., the Refuge was one of the first places I became more aware of sex trafficking as a local, state, and national issue. Further, the Refuge serves girls who come from different backgrounds, and I learned how sex trafficking does disproportionately affect missing, abused, runaway children, and minorities, most of whom are identified as U.S. citizens. That means that the stereotype and fear of having children stolen off the street isn’t a full or entirely accurate picture of the reality of trafficking in Texas and in the United States. The Refuge has helped my family have hard but valuable conversations about the reality and truths about sex trafficking around our dinner table.

Although there is so much darkness with sex trafficking and looking at how it affects our country and the way it targets and exploits different populations with more intensity, there is hope and healing for survivors through valuable resources like the Refuge for DMST. Through trauma informed, holistic care, survivors of sex trafficking can and will reach their full potential and feel empowered to reach their goals rather than be defined by their trauma.

I am so inspired by the girls at The Refuge and their stories of resilience, restoration, and strength. I ride inspired by this hope.

Note: Pedal the Pacific supports one other organization, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) which works on the preventative and educational side of human trafficking.

-Carmella

May 24, 2024
by 
Chloe Aguilar

Get Involved

Everyone has a place in the fight against sex trafficking

Learn More About the Cause