Just twenty or so miles East of the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is Bastrop, Texas, a still-small city whose local economy has seen rapid economic growth in the past few years. Unfortunately, the city is also grapplying with a child sex trafficking crisis that has been directly tied to multiple perpetrators employed by the state’s crumbling foster care system.
According to an emergency hearing called Thursday, law enforcement officials uncovered a web of child predators working at The Refuge, a “trauma-informed, long-term restoration community…for girls…who have been exploited through sex trafficking,” which also opened, in more recent years, a long-term stay Ranch facility.
The following day, The Refuge held a press conference to deny the claims filed in court documents that allege that eight victims had come forth to report sexual abuse by the same former employee of the facility. In the widely scrutinized words of The Refuge Founder and CEO Brooke Crowder when he spoke out Friday in defense of the facility: “We’re not sure why they come up with seven [more victims]...”
As for the time being, the Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) has issued a hold on the facility and moved the young sex-trafficking victims there to other places for care. What’s more, Texas Health and Human Services has since issued a closure order. The Texas Governor is likewise clamping down on allegations of sex-trafficking at the very facility designed to help youth escape such scenarios. In addition to ordering a formal investigation by the Texas Rangers, he called the situation at the Refuge “abhorrent…despicable…horrific…”