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Bastrop grand jury declines to indict former caretaker at The Refuge accused of exploiting girls

The Refuge founder and CEO said she expected a different outcome from the grand jury but now hopes to move forward and restore the shelter's license.

BASTROP COUNTY, Texas — Editor's note: If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can receive confidential help by calling the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network’s 24/7 toll-free support line at 800-656-4673 or visiting its online hotline.

A Bastrop County grand jury declined to indict a former shelter employee who was accused of abusing and exploiting girls in her care. 

This is in connection to allegations of trafficking and abuse at The Refuge for DMST, a shelter for sex trafficking survivors. Those allegations first surfaced in March 2022, and the shelter said it fired the employee involved as soon as staff became aware.

The Refuge founder and CEO Brooke Crowder released a statement Thursday about the matter after learning the employee wasn't indicted.

“We expected a different outcome from the grand jury because our singular goal has been justice for our two residents who were mistreated by a former employee. We are humbled that this decision seems to clear the final obstacle to the restoration of our license, and we hope that our licensing agency and elected officials will expedite that process. It is time to once again welcome to our healing community the children whose lives have been upended by exploitation so they can continue their healing process in earnest.”

Amid the investigation earlier this year, the Bastrop County facility had the youth it was caring for removed, suspended operations and laid off most of its workforce. A spokesperson previously told KVUE that The Refuge has been reorganizing its service model and undergoing training in preparation for getting its license back. 

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