Austin Sex-Trafficked Minors Will Find Safety at Nicole’s Place
Austin’s first short-term residential home specifically for sex trafficked youth to open soon
By Phaedra Rogers
When most people think of human trafficking, their minds usually dart between victims in third world countries and the pulse-racing drama seen in Hollywood thrillers. Even though both scenarios happen in the real world, that’s not what’s most common.
Human trafficking takes many forms, but one of the most bitterly virulent is sex trafficking, especially among minors. Texas is now ranked No. 2 in the country for sex trafficking, and Austin has seen explosive growth in domestic minor sex trafficking. Between large-scale festivals and our proximity to other cities in the state, Austin serves as a gateway for traffickers to push their victims through our streets mostly unnoticed.
This bad news can seem stunning, but there’s a glimmer of hope for Austin survivors. Nicole’s Place, Austin’s first short-term residential home specifically for survivors of domestic minor sex trafficking, is in the process of opening space for these vulnerable young people. It will fill a critical gap for first responders who rescue exploited youth but have nowhere safe to take them to find the best path of treatment for their healing and recovery.
Nicole’s Place is currently under construction just outside of Austin, nestled in a safe location that will have up to 10 cottages capable of housing up to 50 survivors, ages 12 to 17 years old. They currently have two cottages built and will open more as funding is procured.
Lisa Knapp, founder of The Austin 20, a local organization dedicated to filling the gaps in care for trafficked survivors, propelled the creation of Nicole’s Place. “We look at the scope of the problem of sex trafficking on a local level and try to make sure that our city has the best tools to fight this crime and serve the survivors. That is where the concept for Nicole’s Place was realized. We needed a safe haven for survivors to call home while they prepare for the best step in their healing process,” says Knapp.
Child sexual slavery sounds like something that happens in only the darkest corners of our planet. But it’s happening in Austin, its affluent suburbs and everywhere in between. Technology has made it abundantly easy for traffickers – who can be anyone from gang members to white-collar professionals – to lure minors into their schemes.
“To the average American, the scope and repulsive nature of this problem can be paralyzing,” says Austin 20 President Kathy Senese. “But we couldn’t rest well after hearing the truth, so we gathered a group of smart people and together decided to do something about it. We invite people to be a part of the fight against domestic minor sex trafficking through donations to The Austin 20, or by reaching out with ideas, manpower and services.”
To learn more, donate or volunteer, please visit theaustin20.org.