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In the Media

Media coverage of The Refuge for DMST (Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking) in Austin, Texas. This includes newsletters as well. 

THE REFUGE for DMST IN THE MEDIA

PRESS CONTACT:
Steven "Flyer" Phenix
512-806-0558
steven@therefugedmst.org


Patchwork of Programs Serve Child Sex-Trafficking Victims

(ASSOCIATED PRESS/NY TIMES) "'In an ideal world, there'd be a continuum of types of services, but we're nowhere near that.' Just this past week, the first girls began to arrive at the Refuge Ranch , a new 50-acre residential community of four-person cottages near Austin. The ranch offers trauma-informed care, medical treatment, a school program, and group and individual therapy for girls ages 11 to 19, according to founder and CEO Brooke Crowder. " Read More >>>


Inside the Refuge Ranch

(DAILY MAIL UK) "A beautiful, brand new 50-acre Texas ranch which runs on donations and was created for the victims of sex trafficking, opened its doors this week for its very first residents who are girls and young women. The Refuge Ranch is a residential in-patient program designed to help girls who have been bought and sold for sex at a young age.” Read More >>>


A Refuge From sex trafficking

(SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS NEWS) "The refuge is one of a small handful of programs statewide to address the needs of sex-trafficked survivors and is open to people from across the state. [Founder Brooke Crowder] said her goal is to keep going, to keep raising money and awareness for the need for more places like The Refuge Ranch. Already, there is a waiting list. 'Unfortunately, we have no problem filling beds,' she said. 'We’re just a drop in the bucket of what’s needed.'” Read More >>>


A Refuge For Recovery

(HILL COUNTRY VIEW MAGAZINE) “There are few crimes that infuriate society as much as child sex trafficking and for good reason. Yet society’s anger does look little to eliminate the problem if there isn’t a constructive outlet into which to funnel the anger. It’s a feeling that Brooke Crowder, founder and CEO of The Refuge knows well...." Read More >>>


The Refuge Ranch begins taking in sex trafficking survivors

(SPECTRUM NEWS) “States across the country are starting to focus on treating child sex trafficking victims instead of punishing them. [The] Refuge Ranch, located outside Austin, began taking in girls within the last week. The facility offers trauma care, medical treatment, a school, and therapy. It is part of a national trend, nearly half of the country has eliminated criminal liability for children engaging in prostitution. Texas is not one of them." Read More >>>


The Refuge for child sex trafficking to open soon

(KVUE) “So, when we open for 48 girls, it's a start but it's not enough,” said Steven Phenix of The Refuge. The Refuge for DMST™ (Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking) is developing The Refuge Ranch, a long-term, residential, therapeutic community for girls, minors through age 19, who have been rescued out of sex trafficking. Read More >>>


CHARITABLE DONATIONS OF HOUSE BUILDING MATERIALS

(LOVE TO KNOW) “Are you wondering if you can find a nonprofit organization that takes charitable donations of house building materials? Whether you have leftover materials from new construction or if you have usable items you no longer need following a renovation project, it’s certainly better to get them in the hands of someone who can put them to good use rather than throwing them away.”   Read More >>>


FOX 7 DISCUSSION: ENDING HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN TEXAS

(FOX 7) FOX 7 talks to The Refuge’s Steven Phenix about the warning signs of child sex trafficking for Human Trafficking Awareness Month; plus a discussion about some of the therapy services offered at The Refuge Ranch when it opens in June. Read More >>>


LAKEWAY CHURCH WOMEN’S MINISTRY RAISE HUMAN TRAFFICKING AWARENESS

( AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN) “Events like this save lives, period,” Phenix said. “This is a hidden crime with an underground economy, and with more awareness, people going to recognize it. Particularly, we want young people to know the difference between a pimp and a boyfriend.”

Attendees are also encouraged to bring gift cards to Target, Ross, Kohl’s, TJ Maxx or Marshalls to be given to the Refuge, so the girls staying there can buy clothes and items they need. The Refuge, which will open this year, is located at an undisclosed location in Bastrop County.

“People hear things they can’t unhear at these things,” Phenix said. “There’s always at least one person who is absolutely set on fire by (learning about) this.” Read More >>>


BETTER SYSTEM NEEDED TO SUPPORT HUMAN TRAFFICKING SURVIVORS IN TEXAS

(KXAN)  The Human Trafficking Unit within the Texas Attorney General’s Office is training specific industries on how to identify this crime in their communities.

“Every time we train, we tailor our training to that particular audience or group,” Kirsta Leeburg Melton, who leads the unit, said.

During the 85th legislative session, lawmakers passed laws aimed at fighting human trafficking. Gov. Greg Abbott signed a measure in May requiring training for truck drivers and commercial vehicle operators. It requires all public junior colleges with these training programs to include education on identifying and preventing human trafficking. The work needs to stretch beyond prevention, Melton said. Read More >>>


IN FOCUS: TEXAS’ CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING PROBLEM

(SPECTRUM NEWS) Kirsta Melton, head of the human trafficking unit within the Texas Attorney General’s Office, joins the In Focus set to discuss the different ways in which the unit is trying to stop child sex trafficking. Read More >>>


IN FOCUS: MORE FROM THE REFUGE FOR DOMESTIC MINOR SEX TRAFFICKING

(SPECTRUM NEWS) Steven Phenix and Dee Dee Olsen continue to discuss how The Refuge’s ranch will help survivors of child sex trafficking heal. Read More >>>


79,000 VICTIMS, ONLY 30 BEDS: HOW THE NEW ‘REFUGE RANCH’ WILL HELP CHILD TRAFFICKING SURVIVORS

[CBN NEWS] For children who escape the horror of human trafficking there are no easy answers. Only a handful of centers exist that can treat their complex trauma. But in central Texas, a new facility is opening that hopes to combine comprehensive care with financial sustainability.             Read More >>>


GOV. GREG ABBOTT DECLARES JANUARY HUMAN TRAFFICKING PREVENTION MONTH

(SPECTRUM NEWS) Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday proclaimed January as Human Trafficking Prevention Month in the state of Texas.

“In Texas more than 300,000 people are victims of human trafficking…In Bastrop County, The Refuge for Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking is working to bring those numbers down.”

Read More >>>


NEW CENTER OPENING FOR SOME OF THE 79,000 CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING VICTIMS IN TEXAS

(HELLO CHRISTIAN.) In Texas, an estimated 79,000 children are sex trafficked, but there is only one facility in the state that specializes in care for child sex trafficking victims. This facility only has 30 beds available. The Refuge Ranch plans to change that, however, and is set to open this year with a sustainable financial plan and specialized care for victims. The Refuge Ranch will provide long-term shelter and services for 48 survivors under 19-years-old. Read More >>>


NEW SERIES OF REPORTS EXPOSES REALITY OF TEXAS’ YOUNGEST VICTIMS OF SEX TRAFFICKING

(RARE HOUSTON) There are reportedly several problems child victims of sex trafficking face different than other victims:

For instance, in addition to the trauma of being sold for sex, these children can sometimes end up in jail because they are without any other place to go, according to the Tribune. Read More >>>


SPANISH OAKS NEIGHBORS GATHER FOR THE ULTIMATE HOUSE PARTY

( AUSTIN CULTURE MAP) The party gave attendees the chance to see Fabbio’s beautiful Spanish Oaks listing, as well as catch up with neighbors. But it wasn’t all mixing and mingling — it was also about giving back. A silent auction during the event was held to benefit the Refuge Ranch, which helps young girls rehabilitate after escaping from sex trafficking. Read More >>>


REFUGE FOR YOUNG SURVIVORS OF SEX TRAFFICKING CLOSER TO COMPLETION

(NEW YORK 1) There are 79,000 young Texans who are being sold for sex, according to a study released this year by the University of Texas at Austin. A local group called The Refuge for Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking wants to decrease the number dramatically by creating a sanctuary for survivors, called The Refuge Ranch. Read More >>>


PAIN, SHAME & PERSEVERANCE

(FOCUS MAGAZINE) “'I tell this story to police officers a lot because they never understand why girls go back after they’ve been beaten or sold,’ [The Refuge’s Therapeutic Director, Toni McKinley] said. ‘But I didn’t trust the police because over and over again they kept taking me back to my abuser at home. They didn’t listen when I would tell them what was going on in my household, and of course I didn’t want to go home where my abusive father lived, and I didn’t know anyone else. So we went back and I don’t remember what happened that night. Read More >>>


BROOKE CROWDER, CEO AND FOUNDER OF THE REFUGE FOR DMST

(ALL THINGS FAITHFUL) Brooke Crowder talks to All Things Faithful about The Refuge for DMST, how it got started and where we’re going in the future. Read More >>>


THERAPIST: TRAFFICKERS USE THE BIBLE TO LURE VICTIMS

[CBN NEWS] Toni McKinley is a survivor of child sex trafficking and professional therapist who works with other survivors. The Austin, Texas-based counselor says girls that go to church are vulnerable because, just like any other kid, they want to be accepted and loved. Read More >>>


79,000 POST-IT NOTES BRING ATTENTION TO SEX TRAFFICKING IN TEXAS

(KVUE) An Austin non-profit is bringing attention to victims of sex trafficking in a big way. Over the last three days, volunteers with The Refuge put up 79,000 post-it notes on the windows of the West Elm in downtown Austin. That’s how many human trafficking victims are in Texas, according to recent University of Texas study. Read More >>>


79,000 Post-it notes are project displays desperate plea for help

(KXAN) Earlier this year a University of Texas study found that 79,000 kids in Texas are victims of sex trafficking. One organization feels not enough has been done to educate the public in an effort to reduce that number, so they put up an art installation along W. Fifth Street and N. Lamar Boulevard on the windows of the West Elm store that aims to get your attention. Read More >>>


POST-IT NOTE ART PROJECT SHEDS LIGHT ON TEXAS SEX TRAFFICKING VICTIMS

(AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN) Roughly 79,000 children and young adults in Texas are trafficked into sexual slavery every year, according to a recent University of Texas study. This weekend, 79,000 yellow Post-it notes — each with a girl’s handwritten name on it — don the windows at the West Elm furniture store in downtown Austin, one for each of those victims. Read More >>>


POST-IT NOTES FOR TRAFFICKING VICTIMS IN TEXAS

(OZARKS FIRST) This window display in Texas has 79,000 post-it notes representing 79,000 kids who are victims of sex trafficking in the state. Each of the squares represents a young child. A team of volunteers with an organization called “The Refuge” put up the display. Read More >>>


SELLING GIRLS: SURVIVOR SHARES HER STORY

(KCEN) Human trafficking survivor, Toni McKinley recalls the experiences she faced as a young girl. “It was very bad. There was a few times when I almost lost my life. It’s just very scary and hard to talk about.” Despite how hard her experiences were, she now uses her past to help girls, who have been trafficked, have a better future. Toni’s story started when she was just a young girl. She was six years old, living in an abusive home, when the trafficking began by family members. That went on for about three years. Read More >>>


IN TEXAS, GROWING AWARENESS THAT HUMAN TRAFFICKING ISN’T JUST AN INTERNATIONAL CRIME BUT A LOCAL ONE

(TEXAS STANDARD) Ask Toni McKinley [The Refuge’s Therapeutic Director] about anything related to human trafficking and she’ll answer on the spot. Ask, for instance, who’s at risk?

“All kids are vulnerable," McKinley says. Read More >>>


WHY AUSTIN’S CHILD SEX TRAFFICKERS AREN’T GETTING JAIL TIME

(KVUE) “I think being here is very healing for me, too,” Toni McKinley said. “To be able to come full circle from being in a place that would not do me any good to coming to a place where I can make it with the help of all of our team the best healing place for them as possible.” Read More >>>


Meeting the Needs of Sex Trafficking Survivors

(CASA) “…We need more organizations like The Refuge to support the 79,000 child survivors of sex trafficking in Texas. We need more organizations dedicated to healing sex trafficking survivors like Sofia who have had a history with the foster care system. These organizations are imperative in the fight to keep our children safe.” Read More >>>


Building a Silver Lining

(ATX WOMAN) The Refuge Ranch, a project spearheaded by Brooke Crowder, plans to offer survivors of sex trafficking a place to call home. Read More >>>


FRIDAY’S HERE AND YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS: 5 FAVES!

(THE AMERICAN GENIUS) Favorite Cause: The Refuge for DMST in Austin. Per their site, “Our nation has only recently begun to recognize that we have a severe societal problem in regards to the commercial sexual exploitation of children, also known as domestic minor sex trafficking. As more children are identified and rescued from their exploitive situation, there is a growing need for comprehensive, long-term, trauma-informed services to allow the child to heal and live a life of productivity and hope. Read More >>>


CAUGHT IN A TRAP

(FORT WORTH WEEKLY) Susan and Jenny fought earlier that night. It was nothing unusual for this mother and 16-year-old daughter. But that Tuesday in July of 2015 was different. Words were spoken that would not be easily forgotten. Jen, which is what Susan had called her for years, had stormed off to her room, slamming the door with an anger that Susan had not seen before. Susan knew Jen’s friends meant more to her at this point than she did. Jen was in continual contact with them via her phone and laptop. She wanted to go out, but Susan told her no, she was to stay home that night.   Read more >>>


Solutions: What Texas can do to help child sex-trafficking victims

(TEXAS TRIBUNE) “We have to build the places. We have to create the places. That money has to be raised,” said Brooke Crowder, the founder and executive director of The Refuge, who’s in the middle of raising more than $6 million to build a facility for 48 child sex-trafficking victims in Bastrop. “At the end of the day, the state has to be willing to put resources for infrastructure to house and care for these children.” Read More >>>


Center for sex trafficking survivors breaks ground in Bastrop County

(BASTROP ADVERTISER/AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN) “There has been a great awakening going on that our children in the United States have been bought and sold for sex at an alarming rate,” Refuge founder Brooke Crowder told the crowd. “We recognize that there are so few places for them to heal. Our mission is to be that place. And today represents one day closer to that dream.” Read More >>>


Haven for Trafficking Victims in Central Texas still seeking funds

(AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN) “'When Brooke told me the ideal target in Austin for human trafficking was a 12-year-old girl, it broke my heart. I have a 12-year-old girl,' [Pastor Randy Phillips] said. 'Joining with Brooke to empower her dreams at the Refuge became our mission.'

"But Crowder said the work is not done. She is focused on raising the remainder of the $2 million the group needs by the end of the year." Read More >>>


Safe Haven for Sex Trafficked Girls Coming to Texas

(BREITBART) “When we talk about domestic victims, we are talking about girls born and raised in the United States and they are trafficked in the United States, often city to city and state to state,” said Brooke Crowder, founder and director of the non-profit Refuge for DMST (Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking) in an interview with Breitbart Texas. Crowder said the project breaks ground in the Austin-area later this month. “We only have 24 beds for child sex trafficking victims in Texas,” she commented. The Refuge ranch will offer 48 beds, more than at any other facility. Read More >>>


THIS TEXAS RANCH IS A REFUGE FOR CHILD VICTIMS OF SEX TRAFFICKING

(KUT-FM "TEXAS STANDARD") "Trafficking victims have nowhere to go once they’re rescued except juvenile detention centers. That’s about to change." Read More >>>


HAVEN FOR TRAFFICKING VICTIMS PLANNED FOR BASTROP COUNTY

(AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN) Brooke Crowder, the Executive Director of The Refuge, found her calling in graduate school when she saw a video of young girls being pulled out of a hole in the floor of a brothel in India. They had been victims of sex traffickers. The footage left her weeping for an hour. That cause, her advisor told her, could be what you do with your life. Read More >>


The refuge TV APPEARANCES

"Most children who have had this experience have tremendous shame, guilt. They feel forgotten. And so at The Refuge that is our mission is to tell them their life matters, you are not forgotten, we believe you can rebuild your life and we are here to help you do that."
Come next September, help and healing will be available to child sex trafficking victims in Texas. "These children deserve that, I believe they deserve that, and as a community, we need to take responsibility for it," says Cynthia Borsellino.
The Refuge's Steven Phenix talks about child sex trafficking issues, The Refuge's Groundbreaking and future plans to help child survivors.
Will the arrest of Backpage.com's CEO have any impact upon the number of children who are sex trafficked online? KXAN-TV asks APD and The Refuge for our opinions. Plus there's news at the end of the segment regarding the upcoming groundbreaking for The Refuge Ranch.
Brooke Crowder, The Refuge's Founder & Executive Director, talks with KTBC-FOX about the current lack of resources in Texas for child sex trafficking victims and the upcoming beLydia Gathering on August 13th. For more information go to www.belydiagathering.org or www.therefugeaustin.org.
You can still help the child survivors of sex trafficking -- it's easy to text a donation. On your phone, start a new text to 41444, then type in the message "BTHE1" and hit send. You'll be able to enter your card information on your phone and any amount you feel like donating.
If you missed the Good Friday service at the Frank Erwin Center you can still join in on this fight! "I want people to get passionate about this fight because there is nothing more evil than our children being caught up in sex slavery," said Kevin Malone, former GM of the LA Dodgers and Executive Director of Protect the P.A.T.H.

Brooke Crowder from The Refuge talks with KXAN about the growing crime of child sex trafficking in United States.

"Hard to face, tough to talk about, but it's true. There are women and children being sold for sex in our communities. And for those who are able to escape there really are not a lot of options. But there will soon be one more. Today was the groundbreaking for The Refuge Ranch."

The Refuge, a new place of rest and restoration for child sex trafficking breaks ground.
KTBC-FOX asks The Refuge's Brooke Crowder to comment on the Texas Attorney General's new unit to combat human trafficking across the state.
Executive Director Brooke Crowder drops by the FOX 7 morning show to talk about The Refuge.
KVUE shares how viewers can help child survivors of sex trafficking with Brooke Crowder, Founder and Executive Director of The Refuge for DMST.
"Whenever there is a major event from a professional football game to Formula One event to SXSW, they bring girls in from all over the nation," said Steven Phenix, PR director for The Refuge, a center for victims of sex trafficking that is slated to open in Bastrop County in December.
El martes comenzó la construcción de "Refuge Ranch" o el Rancho Refugio, una institución que dará no solo albergue, sino proveerá un oasis a adolescentes que han sobrevivido a uno de los crímenes más horrendos: el tráfico sexual.
"It's easier for [pimps] to grab a kid off the street who's just run away, who's run away from four, five, six times already from four or five, six different types of abuse - not as many people are out there looking for that kid unfortunately.
1 in 3 children running away from foster care are never found. They are as young as 11-years-old and they spend up to six weeks alone. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says that 1 in 5 missing children is likely a victim of child sex trafficking.

Brooke Crowder from The Refuge talks with KXAN about the growing crime of child sex trafficking in United States.

Brooke Crowder, Founder and Executive Director of The Refuge, talks to KXAN about the growing problem of child sex trafficking during Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
Steven Phenix, PR & Communications Director for The Refuge, talks with KTBC about the growing problem of child sex trafficking during Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
KXAN delves into human trafficking issues: Human Trafficking Advocacy Day at the Capitol, new legislation, new UT report and The Refuge weighs in on the spike in children being trafficked during big events like the Super Bowl.