Mention the words sex trafficking and thoughts of young girls and women most likely come to mind. But, Bob Williams, founder and chief executive officer of Ranch Hand Rescue (RHR), knows better; especially after being appointed to a task force organized earlier this year by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
“Governor Abbott recognizes there is a real problem with human trafficking, so he’s been aggressive with a human trafficking initiative in general in Texas,” Williams said. “He probably leads the country in this. He assembled a group of individuals to develop a strategy and come up with a solution for boys and young men.
“Studies show, up to 50-percent of trafficking victims are boys and young men. What we’ve done is announced plans to open the first safe house for young men, [aged] 17-24. That’s a 2020 initiative.”
The facility will be called Bob’s House of Hope and, to raise funds to build it and make people aware of it, Williams created the Ignite Hope Gala.
It will be held Oct. 12 at Denton’s Embassy Suites.
Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree and Texas State Senator Jane Nelson are the honorary chairs. Actress Ruta Lee also will attend and Fox News Sports Director Mike Doocy will emcee.
A cocktail hour will start the evening with a live auction; dinner and music by Emerald City Band Elevation to follow.
Ranch Hand Rescue specializes in providing therapies for people– who are not helped by traditional mental health counseling– by pairing animals rescued from abuse, with people affected by physical and sexual abuse and veterans Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
“My vision was we would go 360-degrees with a home, but it would be for veterans.” Williams said. “But, then– as part of our research– there’s not one place in the country for young men to go to. There’s only a home in Florida for boys under age 18.
“My strategy for the safe house is simple. It’s long-term care. You can’t address this overnight. We’re going to have a grandparent program. We’ll have a ranch with some of these animals to help get the kids back into school and get them into a trade. And, we’re going to put some God in their life.
In its first 10-years, RHR has rescued 514 abused or neglected animals and helped more than 1,200 people; and, is primed to help many more.
“We’ll give them some hope and leverage our tremendous relationship with veterans to help mentor these young people,” Williams said. “I think we’ve got a great recipe for success, but the key is we need to raise money. We need public support. We need sponsors for our event.
“What people don’t understand … it’s actual human slavery. These kids start out with predators looking for these victims. They look for the most vulnerable, so we understand you have to start with the predators and stop these kids going ‘play-for-pay’ and kids being thrown out for being gay or lesbian and that sort of thing. So, it all starts with the individual who is looking for it.
“The kids realize they can make easy money and do things under the guise of people taking advantage of them. It only takes one person – a trafficker –to promote this and it’s survival sex in many cases.”
Besides Murphree in Denton County, local, county, state and federal law enforcement officials in adjacent areas also are stepping up their vigilance.
“We need to focus more on the victims and how we help them, because they’re not criminals,” Williams said. “And, we also need to go after the trafficker. So, when it comes to people using these kids for whatever, it is what they want and [they] offer them all kinds of things.”
Williams also has joined with Abbott’s office, George Lynch, chief executive officer of Traffick 911 to develop and give a presentation on the subject.
“It’s very powerful and very enlightening with the statistics, what has to happen and that sort of thing.” Williams said. “People are afraid to talk about human trafficking. It should frighten every parent. And, people really need to be aware that it’s happening to boys and young men. It’s very serious.
“What you are seeing now for the first time– and Sheriff Tracey Murphree has helped lead this effort– is going after the perpetrators, the buyers. You’ve got to start there and target the ‘stings’ that affect boys and girls; and not just girls.”
“We need to give all of them a tremendous amount of credit; and especially to Sheriff Murphree. This is top of mind and this issue is so important, because if we don’t take care of our kids, we don’t have a future. I think in this day of age, when you see such disrespect for police and authority, we really need to give them a pat on the back and a thank you for everything they are doing to protect us and protect our children.”
Williams said tickets and sponsorships remain available for the event with complete details available at ranchhandrescure.org, or calling 940-240-0500.