The place where young victims went to recover from the trauma of abuse was instead a place where they endured a fresh wave of abuse.
This is truly shameful after a State Department report in July 2021 stated that the pandemic put more people at risk of human trafficking.
A letter from Tara Olah, a director with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, accuses nine employees of a state-contracted rehabilitation facility in Bastrop County, Texas, that cares for young victims of sex trafficking of having trafficked those same girls.
The Refuge Ranch has a staff of more than three dozen that provide round-the-clock care. All are subject to background checks and officials say that all employees had passed their background checks.
However, as Law & Crime notes, “Past investigations by KXAN have reported multiple issues with employee background checks at The Refuge, including one employee who worked almost six months without an active background check, another that had only a provisional background check with the specific condition to ‘not be left alone with a child or group of children,’ plus several record keeping compliance problems.”
Four employees have been fired and more are under investigation.
One unidentified employee has been arrested on a charge that hasn’t been made public, and Olah anticipates more arrests and charges of the other eight people involved.
The Refuge Ranch is located on a 50-acre property in Bastrop, Tex., about 30 miles east of the state’s capital city, Austin. It’s operated by a nonprofit organization called The Refuge for DMST™ (short for “Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking”), and their website describes how the girls are provided with “trauma-informed, holistic care” that includes education through a University of Texas-run charter school, medical care, psychiatric services, and other “various therapeutic programs uniquely designed for the development of a child survivor.” The website also lists numerous “partners” that include corporate donors, churches and other non-profits, and government partners like the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office and the Office of the Governor of Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX).
The Refuge Ranch “is the largest long-term, live-in rehabilitation facility for child survivors of sex trafficking in the United States,” the website says.
It’s also the place where seven girls, ranging in age from 11 to 17 years old, were allegedly abused by a stunning total of nine Refuge employees — and were not removed from the facility for over a month after the abuse was first reported.
Source: Law & Crime
While the reports and the facility itself use the term “domestic minor sex trafficking” this is whitewashing what is happening with these trafficked minors.
The age of consent in Texas is 17, which means that the sex cannot be consensual — this is trafficking on the statutory rape of minors. To be even more blunt, this is child rape slavery.
The children were sexually and physically abused and suffered from neglectful supervision and medical neglect while at The Refuge, a facility located in Bastrop contracted by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, a current Refuge employee reported to state authorities on Jan. 24. The court and the court monitors — watchdogs of the foster care system appointed by the judge — were not notified until Thursday.
That employee said a former staff member sold nude photos of two children in the facility’s care, using the proceeds to purchase illegal drugs and alcohol that were then supplied to the children, according to a letter from DFPS filed on Thursday notifying the court about the incident. Local law enforcement and the Texas Department of Public Safety were immediately notified, according to the letter.
“Has the governor seen it?” Jack asked, referring to the letter. No one answered.
Source: Texas Tribune
Here’s the KXAN Report that aired on Thursday.
What is so stunning is that the first report was made on January 24 alleging the girls “were sexually and physically abused and suffered from neglectful supervision and medical neglect” and additional reports of abuse were made all the way up to March 4 but nothing was done. Despite multiple allegations of abuse — some of which involved the same staff member — the girls were only removed from the facility on March 9.
Of the other staff members still currently employed who appeared to be involved in the abuse, several of them are either related to one another by blood or marriage, or were cohabitating according to Olah’s letter.
It’s now believed that the operation’s residential care director, Courtney Trujillo, knew about the sexual abuse and appears to have done nothing for almost two months. On Friday, The Refuge disputed the claim saying that Trujillo immediately notified the proper authorities as soon as allegations were made. They also dispute the number of victims saying that they don’t know where it came from and are only aware of two.
Here is the press conference with the Founder and CEO of The Refuge, Brooke Crowder, and Public Relations Director, Steven Phenix.
“This is just shocking and shameful. Children are being subjected to terrible abuse in state care, and the agencies say nothing,” Paul Yetter, an attorney who represents foster care children in the federal lawsuit, said in a statement Thursday. “Texas is failing its most basic duty: keep these innocent children safe. And we all know who pays the price. Without the vigilance of the court monitors, and the Judge’s jumping into immediate action, who knows what kind of further abuse would be happening.”…
…The judge blasted DFPS for not immediately removing the children when the allegations of abuse were first reported, calling it yet another failure of the system. Numerous bombshell reports have been released by the court-appointed monitors detailing abuse within the system, neglect and even the deaths of children.
Dozens of facilities contracted by Texas have recently closed down or had their license revoked after racking up numerous offenses and subjecting children to dangerous and damaging environments. Child advocates and the judge have repeatedly criticized Texas officials for failing to ensure facilities are safe for kids in the state’s care. From summer 2019 to May 2021, the court monitors discovered that at least 23 children died in Texas’ long-term foster care system in shelters and facilities licensed by the state.
Source: Texas Tribune
At around 8:30 pm (CT), Texas Governor Gregg Abbott issued a statement announcing an investigation into the abuse by Texas Rangers.
Ordering an immediate investigation by the Texas Rangers into reports of child sex trafficking at a state-contracted shelter for children.
— Gov. Greg Abbott (@GovAbbott) March 11, 2022
It appears that the state of Texas isn’t protecting the most vulnerable in a state-sanctioned facility — instead, it’s allowing these kids to be trafficked again. This abuse goes all the way to the Office of the Governor, Greg Abbott. Texas, as a state, is sanctioning and using Texas tax dollars to rape children for profit on the black market.