The Refuge Nears Completion of Therapeutic Ranch For Child Survivors of Sex Trafficking


The International Labor Organization estimates that forced labor and human trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide.  A recent study by the Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault (IDVSA) at The University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work estimates that there are more than 300,000 victims of human trafficking here in Texas, including almost 79,000 minors and youth victims of sex trafficking and nearly 234,000 adult victims of labor trafficking.

One of Jackson Walker’s clients is answering the call to combat sex trafficking. In October 2016, The Refuge for DMST broke ground on its 50-acre campus, which will provide long-term shelter, therapy, and educational services to young women who have been rescued out of sex trafficking. The facility, known as The Refuge Ranch, is being built on a quiet, pastoral stretch of land just outside of Austin.

Jackson Walker attorneys Ben Rhem, Frank Morphis, Sara McEown, and Jerry Webberman have partnered with The Refuge to serve as legal counsel on various environmental, real estate, and construction issues. Under the leadership of its Executive Director, Brooke Crowder, The Refuge has been able to navigate through a series of hurdles, and hopes to complete the facility by the end of the year.

jackson-walker-attorney-thumb-RhemBen“We truly believe in the work that The Refuge is doing. It is without a doubt the most rewarding project I’ve ever worked on.  I am also proud to have colleagues who have jumped at the opportunity to help out in whatever way they can,” said partner Ben Rhem.

Plans for The Refuge Ranch include space to house at least 48 young women. The Refuge will provide on-site schooling, a medical clinic, and therapeutic program, including equine, art, music, and pet therapy. It will also administer one-on-one counseling and group therapy with licensed professional therapists to help each girl along the path to recovery and healing.

Jackson Walker will continue to partner with The Refuge to provide ongoing legal support. To learn how Jackson Walker was introduced to and came to represent The Refuge, read The Refuge’s March newsletter.

About The Refuge

The Refuge for DMST (Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking) is developing The Refuge Ranch, a long-term, residential, therapeutic ranch for girls, ages 11-17, who have been rescued out of sex trafficking. Located on 50 acres in a beautiful and restorative setting outside of Austin, TX, The Refuge Ranch will provide trauma-informed, holistic care for the girls on-site, including: a University of Texas Charter School program, a People’s Community Clinic and various therapeutic programs uniquely designed for the development of a child survivor. Slated to open late 2017, The Refuge Ranch will be one of the only long-term, live-in rehabilitation facilities for child survivors of sex trafficking in the United States. For more information, go to www.therefugeaustin.org.