The first safe house in the country for young men who have been victims of sex trafficking is opening soon in south Denton.
Most people equate the hidden crime of sex trafficking with young girls and women, but researchers have realized that as many as half of the 300,000 American youth trafficked and exploited each year are boys and young men, according to federal agencies. In fact, a sting in 2019 in North Texas conducted by law enforcement detained 10 people for online solicitation of a minor, and four of them were seeking boys under 15.
Denton County’s Bob Williams, CEO of Ranch Hands Rescue, says trafficking is a raging underground epidemic in America that snares children from all corners of society, and young, victimized men often go overlooked.
“It is the single biggest problem in the country, and no one is talking about it,” Williams said.
To address the issue, Williams has established Bob’s House of Hope for male sex trafficking victims between the ages of 18-24.
“These young men will be the forgotten ones no longer,” Williams said. “If we don’t provide shelter for victims of sex trafficking, their abusers are extremely likely to find them and haul them back into the trade. No person should be subjected to such a monstrous situation, but trafficked boys in particular are being overlooked, and we are going to change that starting now.”
Williams said boys oftentimes don’t understand that they are being exploited, or don’t want to admit it.
“Once free, trafficked men have increased rates of suicide, criminal behavior and serious trauma,” Williams said. “We must step up to help.”
Williams has worked in child welfare for years. In 2008, he opened Ranch Hands Rescue, a Denton County nonprofit that pairs victimized children with special needs animals. The program is overseen by on-site licensed counselors.
Bob’s House of Hope will provide total care for up to three years to help young men rebuild their lives and reintegrate into society as happy, productive members of their community. These residents will receive trauma therapy through Ranch Hands Rescue’s innovative Equine and Animal Assisted Counseling program. RHR is the only program in the country to partner special needs farm animals in trauma-informed therapy sessions alongside licensed professional counselors.