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Survivor Sisters Leadership Program

The Refuge for DMST

Survivor Sisters Leadership Program Logo

Program Website
Winner Status:
Program Type:
Counseling and Support
Target Population:
Long-Term Residential Care Facility

Program Description

A survivor Leader will meet with minor sex trafficked girls ages 11-19 in a group setting twice a month for two hours each time. On alternating weeks, they will have private individual phone consultations. Every group meeting begins with reading the group guidelines. The leader will then ask the girls to update them on their week, example, what were your highs and lows. Then the leader will transition into the lesson. These lessons are interactive and discussion based. The end of the group we wrap up with ideas the girls have to practice mindfulness and positive coping skills. On the weeks that there is no group meeting the girls have an opportunity to have a private phone conversation with the Survivor Leader. If a girl is being released from the facility then that time is taken to discuss relapse prevention. DMST Victims need to have role models and mentors who understand the trauma these girls and can relate to them on a personal level. The existing survivor sister leaders are trained in Trauma Informed Care, Basic Counseling Skills, and TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention. Survivors of sex trafficking have high recidivism rates


There are no existing programs like this for a survivor of sex trafficking in a juvenile detention facility in the whole USA. Detention facilities have a very high recidivism rate and the girl’s who’ve been trafficked are extremely high. The Texas Juvenile Justice Department and the Governor’s Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Team approached me to develop this program to reduce that rate. We want to stop seeing these girls manipulated by their traffickers to go back & instead facilitate the development of healthy relationships with a survivor mentor who understands them and the complex trauma they experienced. This program employs successful survivors who are thriving in their community. They develop leaderships skills and financial stability. These ladies mentor these girls to be not only survivors but thrivers in their communities. Within the past year not a single girl has been re-exploited when they were released from the detention facility.


Using the emPower curriculum will help open the lines of communication to build trust. The curriculum educates the girls about what happened to them. This will help to destroy the trauma bond with their trafficker and create a bond with the mentor who models appropriate relationships. DMST Victims need to have role models and mentors who understand the trauma these girls have and can relate to them on a personal level. The survivor sister leaders are trained in Trauma Informed Care, Basic Counseling Skills, and TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention). Each survivor leader will meet in a group setting and be available for individual phone session during the month. The survivor leader will walk along side her to help her on the path towards success. The leader will work with other local organizations to ensure she gets the best care for her needs.


We have launched this project in Harris, Bexar, Travis, Bell and Brown County this year. We are looking to expand within Tarrant and McLennan Counties and continue throughout the state of Texas. Revenue from State Placed Children: The State of Texas provides $267 – $400 per day for the care of each child identified as a victim of sex trafficking and placed at The Refuge by these agencies. It is estimated that 75% of The Refuge capacity will be utilized by children placed with The Refuge though these agencies. Currently, funds are available from the general operations budget which includes donations from donors. The Refuge for DMST has a Development Department and grant coordinators soliciting private and corporate donations; and coordinating and building the capacity for pro bono activities. Funding from these sources will be used to continue this program of survivor mentoring for the young girls.


The program is currently being sought after by other counties in Texas. The program’s goal is to duplicate this in every detention facility in Texas. This goal can be achieved by hiring survivor leaders in the community to lead a group in their county or city detention facility. Each survivor leader will go through training. An MOU will be signed between the detention facility and the Refuge for DMST. Each survivor leader will be under supervision by The Refuge Director of Therapeutic Services. Other organizations can easily adapt this program to fit their area by receiving some training about how to run the program.


The outcomes will be that the survivors will leave the detention facility and enter into the proper care she needs in order to reach her goals. She may enroll in school to earn her GED, high school diploma, or a college degree. She will also obtain a job where she can begin to earn a living and gain experience. The survivor will be involved in counseling services and meeting her mentors weekly. She will not return to the detention facility and she will be emotionally strong to resist the traffickers who may try to manipulate her back into the life of being sold for sex.