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New boutique opens solely for sex trafficking survivors

The Refuge for DMST opened a store for sex trafficking survivors. The items will cost pennies, but the charity says the finance lessons are invaluable.

AUSTIN, Texas — What was once a construction trailer is now a special clothing store for certain child sex trafficking survivors.

It opened on Wednesday at the Refuge Ranch, run by The Refuge for Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST).

The ranch is the largest long-term residential treatment facility for child sex trafficked girls, aged 11-19 years old.

"About a year ago, Sixthriver and The Burt Group, Inc. came up with the brilliant idea to convert our double-wide construction trailer out at The Refuge Ranch into the boutique," the Refuge for DMST posted on Facebook. "They worked with their partners and vendors to get all the materials donated, from hand-crafted displays and one-of-a-kind wallpaper with doves to a brilliant, high-end carpet stitched together from samples."

It's closed to the public. Only the survivors there at the ranch get to shop inside.

The store is stocked with new clothing donated from the community. 

"Each girl who lives at The Refuge Ranch is entitled to earn money through doing extra chores. They are required to practice personal responsibility by cleaning up after themselves and keeping their rooms tidy, but they can earn money by helping their community [their cottage or the ranch]. They can earn up to $14 a week by doing things such as organizing the refrigerator, pulling weeds, assisting office administration with small tasks, preparing new cottages for opening, etcetera," said Steven Phenix, director of PR & communications.

The goods will average a few cents each. Phenix says the goal is to teach budgeting and money management.

Eventually, the survivors can choose to work in the store to learn retail skills such as customer service and how to take inventory.

The KVUE Defenders told you how rehabilitation is important for prosecuting sex traffickers.

RELATED: Rehabilitation services limited in Texas for sex trafficking victims

The Defenders discovered how traffickers often get away with the crime because jurors may use a survivor's criminal past against them.

RELATED: 'The Story of the Refuge': One year report shows how new Central Texas facility rehabs sex trafficked children

"The Ranch Boutique is also available for the girls to shop with the money they earned. Their house moms teach them budgeting skills and ensure they don't spend more than they have or empty their bank account on the nail polish they have been eyeing. Because all the items in the boutique are donated, any money they spend in it is put into a savings account and this money goes with them when they leave," Phenix said.

The store has more than 2,500 new clothes and accessories, but the charity still needs items donated to fill the boutique. Here is how you can help.


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