AUSTIN, Texas — Twenty-five-year-old Victoria Gonzales said the love of her parents allowed her to gain a sense of self-worth.
We don’t need special treatment, all we need is love,” said Gonzales, who was forced into sex trafficking across Texas when she was 15 years old. It continued for almost four years. She now helps other survivors of sex trafficking as an advocate for SAFE Alliance. The nonprofit is dedicated to ending child abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence.
“I would not be here without support, that’s why it is so important, and I don’t think anyone in this world could just make it alone, without love, without a friend, without a parent,” Gonzales said. “Each and every one of us has somebody at the end of the day and so these people need that, too.”
These people are the almost 80,000 young Texans who have been exploited, according a report by The University of Texas School of Social Work. SAFE has a new program to help some of them, called SAFE CARES. They are offering training and support to specialized foster parents who will take care of teens who have been sex trafficked.
“The connection with a safe adult who models a different way of behaving can just be earth-shattering and life-changing for youth who’ve come from abusive homes,” said Julia Spann, co-chief executive officers for SAFE Alliance.
The SAFE CARES also includes crisis response, individual case management and counseling services. It is made possible through a $1.6 million grant from the Criminal Justice Division of the Officer of the Governor.
SAFE’s leaders believe a healthy home will help survivors heal, but in these first four months, no one has opened their doors. Advocates hope these kids will eventually get to experience what it’s like to trust in others.
“They’re going to love you for who you are no matter how many mistakes you’ve made, even if you have nothing to give.” Gonzales said. “That’s a healthy relationship. That is real love.”
There is an orientation Wednesday, April 11 at 1 6 p.m. For more information visit SAFE Alliance.