You may think that child sex trafficking isn’t a problem in America, that it’s something only faraway countries have to deal with in today’s modern world.
But did you know that Houston’s own I-10 corridor is a major transport route, along with I-45, our airports, and any large-draw events (next year’s Super Bowl looms large), making Houston the top city in the U.S. for domestic minor sex trafficking?
Acknowledged or not, it’s a major problem in our city, and some may view it as too big of a horror to face. Arrow Child & Family Ministries, however, is responding with rehabilitative care that leads to healing through programs and facilities that are giving these rescued girls a chance at normal, productive lives.
Community leader Nikki Richnow had a calling in her heart and was the visionary who co-founded Freedom Place in 2012, after witnessing child prostitution in Asia and coming home to the horrifying truth that the selling of children for sex was also a thriving business in America. With the help of Arrow Child & Family Ministries and dedicated community volunteers, Freedom Place became the first treatment and recovery center of its kind in Texas and one of only five in the entire country.
Girls ages 9-18 who are rescued from domestic child sex trafficking — the average victim’s age is 13, and only one in 100 are recovered — typically spend on average a year at Freedom Place, which is located at an undisclosed location outside Houston.
They receive emotional, spiritual, mental and physical therapy while continuing their education and benefiting from other resources designed to prepare them to re-engage and become successful members of society.
Its trailblazer status has made Freedom Place the standard for state licensing agencies looking to determine what treatments are most effective in giving the girls back the lives that were taken from them.
It’s also the first rehabilitative center to use and teach canine therapy for vocational skills and to accompany the survivors on the witness stand, allowing the girls to overcome PTSD, reduce shame and guilt, and testify against their perpetrators. Art, music, ropes, and equine therapy are also invaluable resources on the road to recovery.
When a child arrives at Freedom Place, all efforts are made to reunite her with her immediate family. If that’s not possible, then Arrow Child & Family Ministries steps in to assist with the transition that best fits her needs, including foster care.
Arrow Child & Family Ministries began in 1992 with a concentration on foster care, not knowing that today over 74 percent of sex trafficking victims come from the foster care system. The brokenness these girls face often originated in their home and then led them to be placed with child protective services. It is these connections that strengthens Arrow’s desire of helping these girls reclaim their peace through family and only furthers its mission of helping kids and strengthening families.
A fundraising luncheon will take place at River Oaks Country Club on November 3. Domestic child sex trafficking survivor Rachel Thomas will speak about overcoming the atrocities these children face. For more information, contact Debi Tengler at Debi.Tengler@Arrow.org or register online.