HOUSTON (FOX 26) - A new shelter for survivors of sex trafficking is coming to the Houston area.
Refuge for Women is a national, faith-based non-profit that operates five long-term residential programs across the country – Central Kentucky, Chicago, Ohio Valley, North Texas, ad Southern Nevada. The Houston location is expected to open next Spring. The organization also hopes to open a 7th shelter in Southern California.
The survivors at are in the program for about a year at no cost and get around the clock counseling. Some stay longer.
“What we do is provide a next step for women that have been identified as human trafficking survivors,” said Ked Frank, President of Refuge for Women. “We give them a safe place to be able to go, to start over, to be able to heal and just dream again about what they’d rather be doing in life versus maybe what they’ve been forced to do in life.”
“It’s just basically an overwhelming embrace of positivity,” said a survivor and graduate of the program who now lives in Houston. We’re referring to her Jessica for her safety.
For more than five years, Jessica was sold for sex by a gorilla pimp -- a pimp known to control his victims through physical violence.
“It was a scary experience. I’ve been sexually assaulted. I’ve had my nose broken. I’ve had my face fractured. I’ve been in the hospital numerous times. I’ve been held hostage,” Jessica added.
Jessica says she was trafficked in major cities like Atlanta, Miami, and Houston.
“There’s so many people involved in it. There’s so many businesses involved in it,” she stated.
After several years, she remembers she started telling herself “the life” was not normal.
Until, finally, she decided she was done.
“I remember this one time I came home from work and I threw $2,000 on the counter in the restroom and I just left it there and I knew that my value was more than that money,” Jessica recalled.
However, leaving everything behind wasn’t easy.
“There reaches a point where you become so entrapped in it that the thought of escaping, it’s scary. Because you, literally, you will have nothing,” she explained.
Fortunately, a relative gave Jessica the phone number for Refuge for Women. Frank answered.
She credits Frank for helping her find an apartment after graduating from the program and finding a job. A challenge is thought overwhelming at one point because of her criminal history.
Frank adds the program doesn’t get when the women leave the shelter.
“We’re going to be walking with them for the long haul,” he told FOX 26.
Jessica is excited the program helped her start over will soon be close to home so other women can begin their new journey.
“You don’t have to normalize the trauma. And, it’s never too late and there really are people that don’t a single thing from you but to help you. You are stronger than this. You can overcome this and you can get away from these people,” she said to potential victims.
Frank says they’ll need help to furnish the house, vehicles to get the survivors to job interviews and doctor’s appointments, and lots of volunteers.