DALLAS WOMEN’S FOUNDATION MAKES $1 MILLION LEAD GIFT

TO LETOT CENTER IN FIGHT AGAINST

SEX TRAFFICKING OF GIRLS

 

Lead Gift for Residential Treatment Center Made Against Backdrop of

New Research Quantifying Girls Victimized in Texas Sex Trade

 

DALLAS, January 20, 2011 – As it releases information documenting the prevalence of sex trafficking of girls in Texas, the Dallas Women’s Foundation has announced it is making an historic $1 million grant to the Letot Center Capital Foundation to help prevent the victimization of high-risk girls. The grant is the lead gift to the campaign to build a residential facility at the Dallas County Letot Center, which currently provides short-term treatment and shelter for girls ages 13 to 17, including those who have been exploited in the sex trade and runaways at high risk of being victimized. The Letot Girls’ Residential Treatment Center will enable girls to more thoroughly address the highly complex issues they face as they rebuild their lives so their chances of being exploited are reduced.

 

The new Letot Girls’ Residential Treatment Center will be the only residential program in Texas serving trafficking victims and runaways who are at high risk of being exploited by traffickers. With facilities to accommodate 96 girls, it will also be the largest of only a small handful of residential facilities across the nation.

 

Underscoring the need for this program, the Dallas Women’s Foundation is releasing the results of “Adolescent Girls in the Texas Sex Trade,” a statewide study of the commercial sexual exploitation of girls. The research, which measured activity on Internet classified web sites and escort services over a one-month period in November 2010, documented 740 girls under age 18 trapped in the sex trade in Texas. The North Texas area accounts for 35 percent of this crime statewide, although this region only represents 26 percent of the state’s population.

 

“The Dallas Women’s Foundation is proud to support the Letot Girls’ Residential Treatment Center, which will focus on prevention of, as well as recovery from, trafficking among high-risk girls,” said Becky Sykes, President and CEO of Dallas Women’s Foundation.  “Much like domestic violence 30 years ago, commercial sexual exploitation of girls is often misunderstood and overlooked, yet is a harsh reality for too many young girls. Through this gift and our research, we intend to lift up this issue so it can be better understood, addressed and prevented by the community.”

 

To put the scope of this issue in perspective in relation to other social problems in Texas, the 256 trafficked girls trafficked in North Texas during this one-month period are:

  • More than six times the number of all North Texans under 21 killed in DUI-related incidents in an entire year (39)
  • More than double the number of women killed in domestic violence incidents with former or current husbands, intimate partners or boyfriends in Texas over an entire year (111)
  • More than double the number of girls ages five to 25 who die by suicide, homicide and accidents in an entire year in the North Texas region (112)
  • Nearly identical to the number of Texans under age 20 diagnosed with HIV in a year (259)

The $1 million grant includes a $250,000 gift from the Dallas Women’s Foundation, as well as gifts from four local donors:

  • Cecilia & Garrett Boone Family Donor Advised Fund at Dallas Women’s Foundation. Cecilia Guthrie Boone is President of the Boone Family Foundation, chair of the Dallas Women’s Foundation’s comprehensive campaign and a past Dallas Women’s Foundation board chair. Garrett Boone is chairman emeritus of the Container Store and a member of the Dallas Women’s Foundation Advisory Council.
  • Elisabeth Ashlee Kleinert & Christopher W. Kleinert Philanthropic Fund of Communities Foundation of Texas.  The Kleinerts are the co-founders of the non-profit organization Executives in Action. Ashlee is the founder and co-owner of In Any Event Dallas, chair of the Dallas Women’s Foundation Philanthropy Committee and a past Dallas Women’s Foundation Luncheon chair. Chris Kleinert is the chairman of Hunt Investment Corporation and director of Hunt Realty Investments.
  • Two Anonymous Donors.

The long-term, therapeutically intensive, family-focused treatment center will serve up to 96 girls in a new two-story, 55,000-square-foot facility at the corner of Denton Drive and Lombardy, adjacent to the existing Letot Center. Specialized and gender-specific treatment will address issues including extreme abuse, prostitution and abandonment through a highly structured residential program. Girls in the program will benefit from six to nine-month residential treatment; community-based support services for themselves and their families during and after the residential stay; and safety from abusive boyfriends, traffickers and caregivers.

 

The new facility will be built with private funds raised by the Letot Center Capital Foundation, while operating expenses of Letot Center are covered by the Dallas County Juvenile Department. The $1 million lead gift by Dallas Women’s Foundation is part of an $8.7 million campaign to build the residential facility at Letot. Established in 1979, Letot Center has served more than 60,000 youth and their families.

 

“There are more than 9,000 runaway youth each year in Dallas County. Often victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse or neglect, they are at high risk of being exploited by traffickers who provide food, shelter, protection and emotional support,” said Sheryl Eagleton, Superintendent of Dallas County Letot Center.  “Astute pimps seek out these girls and seduce them with affection and security, manipulating or threatening them into a life of prostitution and abuse. Sadly, life expectancy for teen prostitutes is only seven years after they enter ‘the life.’”

 

The Dallas Police Department’s Child Exploitation, High Risk Victims & Trafficking Unit refers runaways and girls already in the sex trade directly to Letot Center while detaining them on a lesser charge such as truancy. The girls bypass juvenile detention while Letot Center provides them crisis intervention, specialized care, referral services, shelter and family counseling. This

public-private partnership is recognized nationally as an innovative model for addressing the complex needs of girls who have been identified as high-risk victims.

 

Dallas Women’s Foundation is partnering with Texas non-profit advocacy group CHILDREN AT RISK to bring attention and action to this significant, but often overlooked, problem in Texas. CHILDREN AT RISK will provide the results of “Adolescent Girls in the Texas Sex Trade” to state legislators and advocate for legislation including some no-net-cost solutions:

  • Recognizing children who have been prostituted as victims not criminals
  • Removing the requirement for prosecutors to prove a trafficker convinced a minor victim to engage in a commercial sex act through force, fraud or coercion
  • Collecting revenue from forfeitures by traffickers and buyers and using funds for victim services
  • Impounding vehicles and imposing additional fines on buyers who solicit prostitution from minors
  • Creating liability for third parties who benefit from trafficking situations

 

The research study “Adolescent Girls in the Texas Sex Trade” was conducted over a 30-day period in November 2010 and will be repeated again in February 2011 (including Super Bowl weekend) and August 2011 so that trend data can be captured. The study, conducted by The Schapiro Group on behalf of Dallas Women’s Foundation, is designed to count the number of adolescent females who are acutely commercially sexually exploited and actively marketed within the local sex trade via the Internet and escort services. There are no systematic and replicable methodologies to count street-level trafficking activity at present. The Schapiro Group, in conjunction with the Women’s Funding Network, has conducted similar ground-breaking research in Michigan, Minnesota and New York. Complete results of the Dallas study can be found online at www.DallasWomensFoundation.org/publications.

 

About the Dallas Women’s Foundation

The Dallas Women’s Foundation strengthens the entire community by increasing the investment in women and girls and empowering women’s philanthropy. The Foundation demonstrates its impact on the status of women and girls through gender-specific research, targeted grant making and philanthropic education. One of the largest and oldest of the 160 women’s funds worldwide, Dallas Women’s Foundation has invested more than $15 million in nearly 1,000 programs, assisting a million women and girls. For information, visit www.DallasWomensFoundation.org.