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Midland Nonprofit To Open Shelter For Victims of Sex-Trafficking

Lisa Bownds founded Reflection Ministries in 2016. (Sally Beauvais / Marfa Public Radio)

By Sally Beauvais

Reflection Ministries, a Midland-based nonprofit established in 2016, is preparing to open the region's first long-term care facility for victims of sex-trafficking.

The group presented a lecture at Midland College Thursday night, as a part of Phi Theta Kappa Student Honor Society's Honors in Action initiative. According to Reflection Ministries President Lisa Bownds, the nonprofit has spoken in front of more than 900 people around the Permian Basin since May, spreading awareness of an issue that tends to fly under the radar.

"Sex-trafficking is evident in our schools, it’s in our neighborhoods, our malls, local hang outs, bowling alleys," Bownds said.

According to the nonprofit, there isn't yet comprehensive data pointing to exactly how pervasive a problem sex-trafficking is in the Permian Basin. But Bownds says West Texas has a high rate of familial-trafficking -- where victims are sold for sex by family members.

Reflections Ministries works to help guide victims of all ages through the process of seeking medical and legal help after they've been picked up by the police or served jail time. Many of the groups' referrals come from law enforcement, but Bownds estimates they also receive 3 to 4 calls a week from residents who believe they've spotted sex-trafficking victims on the street.

Soon, the group is aiming to become the main provider of rehabilitative care in the Permian Basin. They’ve secured funding to open a facility they're calling The Village -- a group of homes that will shelter up to 21 victims at a time through the process of recovery, providing therapy and educational services along the way. According to Bownds, that’s a big deal -- Reflection Ministries estimates in the state of Texas, there are less than 60 total beds set aside in shelters for victims of sex-trafficking.

Reflection Ministries plans to open The Village by late 2019.

Sally Beauvais is a reporter at Marfa Public Radio.