New Life Refuge Ministries: building a better tomorrow for sex-trafficking survivors in South Texas
By: Jessica Dusek
Photos by: Paul Marshall
Serving South Texas, New Life Refuge Ministries (NLRM) is bringing hope to victims of sex trafficking. Their two-fold mission brings awareness and prevents sex trafficking through education, and building a refuge of healing for survivors. In 2011, Minta Moore, both founder and director of the organization, forged her path, led by her calling to create a safe haven for minor sex trafficking survivors. “The FBI has rescued 4,800 children from sex trafficking in the U.S.,” Moore explains. The Innocents Lost Project was launched in 2003, supporting these efforts.
“When I learned domestic (U.S.-born) victims had no resources available to them, I was outraged,” Moore says. “The Lord kept nudging me that we needed more homes.” Presently, there are less than 400 beds specifically to help children who survive this crime.
NLRM celebrated the ground-breaking of their first safe house cottage this year. The mission of the refuge is to create a home-like environment where survivors can transition into healthy lifestyles where freedom is gained and souls are healed. The organization began their capital campaign efforts in 2013. However, Moore states, “We are still in need of funding to make the refuge a reality.”
According to the FBI and the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, estimated 100,000 to 300,000 American children are at risk of being lured into sex trafficking each year. Different methods of manipulation are used when targeting vulnerable young girls. Trafficking happens closer to home then one may think. To fight back, Moore advocates educating young girls, parents and people in and around the community on the issue of domestic minor sex trafficking. As an organization, NLRM has presented the issue to more than 1,550 people.
“This is going to help to shine the light on something that has been kept in the dark for so long,” explains a survivor who chose to remain anonymous. Now 38 years old, the former victim explains, “There was no system in place; there were no specialists in place, no one to properly evaluate me. With the work that Minta and her team are doing, they are equipping professionals to do more than they have ever been able to do before. I was unaware that I was being trafficked and unaware of what was happening. My friends and their families were of the same mindsets (situations).”
The experience would appear normal to people who grew up in a trafficking environment (if they knew no other way of life). This is why education and knowledge on the topic is crucial and NLRM is focusing on South Texas.
Many misconceptions remain on the “idea” that sex trafficking happens with young women who are non-U.S. citizens and that it is an issue overseas, when in fact, it can be happening right down the street. What most people don’t know is that it is an organized crime is, in fact, strategic, and exists within layers of society. The key is being able to identify red flags and having knowledge of existing resources.
Various manipulation tactics are used in recruiting victims. “One of the most common methods is the boyfriend tactic,” Moore explains. “He knows how to prey on his victim wisely. He will focus on those who have low self-esteem. They may be having trouble at home, too.” There are also cases where young girls recruit other young girls into trafficking. “Sadly, sometimes the traffickers are the victim’s own parent(s).”
But what about lawmakers and policy enforcers? What are they doing in Texas on these issues? “Legislators like our own State Rep. Todd Hunter are passing laws to help combat the crime and serve survivors,” Moore explains. “On the federal level, our own senators, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, as well as Congressman Ted Poe from Houston helped pass the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act S1738/HB3530.” These bills were passes and supported across party lines.
More from the survivor: A spiritual path
A pivotal moment led the survivor in our story to forgiveness, and gave her a calling her to educate those still victimized by the same crime in which she grew up. At the lowest point in her life, she cried out to Jesus, and, in return, heard the words, “I placed you in your mother’s womb to lead her in the way of salvation.” This was a path she knew only God could walk her down, since her own mother had taken part in the trafficking she had endured as a child.
“When I gave my life to Jesus is when I discovered my identity,” she says. “He spoke to me so clearly – and he took from me my broken life, when I had been on drugs and prostituted. I’ve truly forgiven my mother, and now, I love her with his supernatural love. I couldn’t make this up: He gave me a new life. I couldn’t make this up.”
NLRM helps to educate communities. “Survivors’ need specialized care for their recovery,” Moore says. The organization targets needed professions to offer specialized trainings. For example, in 2014 NLRM offered training to mental health care professionals on how the help treat survivor with the complex post-traumatic stress (CPTSD). In 2015, they offered training to law enforcement professional and first responders on how to identify victims. In 2016, they plan to focus on the medical profession such quick care clinics and staff, as well as ER doctors and staff, to recognize the possible signs of a victim.
For more information, visit New Life Refuge Ministries online at www.newliferefugeministries.org.