Child Sex Trafficking is in our own backyards! So what are we going to do about it? Texas ranks second in the U.S. for confirmed cases, and this number rises every year according to the Polaris Project, a non-profit organization that runs the National Sex Trafficking Hotline.
Most people are unaware of the pervasiveness of the problem, so World Human Trafficking Awareness Day, painfully reminds us that child trafficking is more prevalent than anyone can imagine, it’s growing exponentially, and the time to act is now!
When Austin mother, Lisa Knapp, learned about the torture of our children, she took action to save them from this incomprehensible abuse, and founded an non-profit organization called The Austin 20, which gets its name from the axiom that in any organization, 20% of the people do 80% of the work. Knapp summoned friends like herself, mostly passionate and accomplished mothers, to create real solutions that prevent enslavement and provide a continuum of care for trafficking victims.
The Austin 20 became a force to be reckoned with by quickly raising funds to provide legal support for children accused of crimes while under control of traffickers, and to build a much-needed first refuge for children after they escape the horrors of sex slavery. Knapp personally rescued and cared for girls who desperately needed a safe place to stay that offered no judgement. Her first-hand experiences, were the inspiration for Nicole’s Place.
Existing shelters did not accommodate safety concerns for trauma survivors, and availability in long term rehabilitation facilities can take up to 90 days, so abused children were often incarcerated until there was a better place for them. Instead, they now have a warm and inviting pastoral setting with their own cheerful room and trained counselors to start their rehabilitation.
Child victims are brainwashed by pimps to believe that they are the only ones who care for them or will ever love them now that they’re prostitutes. This complex crime involves physical and mental abuse that is difficult to comprehend.
Currently, Nicole’s Place serves girls age 11-17 for up to 90 days. The staff evaluates each girl and maps their personal recovery. The need is great: 88% of children trafficked for sex are in the care of social services according to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
It has been a pure labor of love with many generous people from our community coming together to share their time talent and treasure to make Nicole’s Place a reality. We are very grateful for this support, and welcome more to help make more space available. If you would like to get involved as a donor, volunteer, or mentor, please contact us through our website and join the fight to keep our children safe! https://theaustin20.org/
Children are waiting to be rescued, and we don’t have the heart to turn them down!
The amount of work to do is overwhelming, but it is also great to go to bed at night knowing that you will help a child with no one in their corner.
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Sex Trafficking Facts for Parents and Our Community:
- Human trafficking is the 3rd largest international crime industry generating $32 billion each year in profits
- In 2017, Texas had the second highest number of reported cases of sex trafficking of minors in the U.S.
- The National Trafficking Hotline receives more calls from Texas than any other state
- 1 in 7 runaways will become victims of sex trafficking
- 1 in 4 runaways will be approached by a sex trafficker within 48 hours
- The average age of sex trafficking victims is 15 years old
- If you see something that’s not right, say something. Twenty seven percent of children in the sex trade are sold by their parents. If you see something out of line, call 911 and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. (1-800-The- Lost)
- The quarantine has driven people online. The use of online pornography has increased its share of the entertainment market during this unfortunate time. Sadly, this creates a more robust market for exploitation.
- Be AWARE of who your children are spending time with online. More and more abusers are approaching their prey online through social media or video games. These are master manipulators who have honed their skills to entrap children.
- Remind your children that they should NEVER show a photo of themselves to anyone without your approval.
- They should NOT enter into private chat rooms with people they do not know. They should not trust that someone is who they say they are online.
- Beware of anyone who is offering to send products to them for endorsement on their social media, (a ploy to secure an address) or someone who poses as a modeling agent.
- Take note if your child changes friend groups, becomes introverted or turns up with new bruises or injuries. While pimps often brand their “stable” with tatoos, this may not always happen.
- Listen to your children and be careful and aware of who they spend time with. Many children are first abused by family or a family friend.
- Anyone who is interested in being alone with your child should raise your curiosity. Abusers are manipulative and can be found in positions that put them in contact with children they target.
- The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) offers online training for internet safety geared toward several age groups. (www.missingkids.org)
- The United Nations reports that child sex trafficking is the fastest growing crime in the world.
- Organized crime has discovered how lucrative this business can be, increasing the sophistication and resources available to exploit children and avoid the law.