Jan. 11, 2024, is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, but one Collin County foundation serves the victims of trafficking year-round.
Treasured Vessels Foundation (TVF) creates secure environments that empower survivors of sexual exploitation, fostering their journey toward realizing their full potential. The foundation offers a protective residential and therapy-based program spanning anywhere from less than one to three years for the well-being of survivors around 18-24 years old.
The idea for the foundation came after TVF Founder Alicia Bush’s husband, a builder, asked her “What are you going to do with your hands?” The following morning she woke from a vision-like state knowing she wanted to create an aftercare facility for sexually exploited girls.
“I didn't know what trafficking was and I really didn't have any experience in this space,” Bush told Local Profile. “So in 2016, we started Treasured Vessels about six weeks after I woke up that morning, and started to really uncover what the need is here in the U.S.”
Texas is the second-highest state in the U.S. for reported cases of human trafficking. In the North Texas region alone, over 700 survivors of sex trafficking were rescued in the past year. However, the availability of therapeutic residential recovery programs is alarmingly limited, with fewer than 50 openings across North Texas. This scarcity of resources contributes to a distressing outcome: many survivors find themselves compelled to return to their traffickers due to the lack of appropriate support and assistance.
By 2020, Bush and her team opened the home that would house approximately five women, providing everything from therapy and education to legal support to building career skills. But they also bring a sense of community for the women — creating something good out of a bad experience — a sisterhood of sorts.
“That community means so much to them,” Bush said. “Typically, we bond through trauma, so we are teaching them how to build connections around positive experiences.”
According to TVF Executive Director Brad Walcher, the type of trafficking is changing, no longer seeing the “Romeo” type of exploitation in which these women meet someone online and the relationship evolves into trafficking. Instead, TVF is finding that the trafficking is happening through families, often with the mothers initiating the transactions.
Welcher explained that Collin County is an ideal location for this space because even though Texas has alarmingly high trafficking rates, the location is farther away from the highly populated areas — a barrier in a sense.
“We also wanted to be away from the lures and the glitz and the glamor that they lived with, they lived through,” Walcher told Local Profile. “We didn't want to be anywhere near there.”
However, as the foundation grows, Walcher and Bush hope to create a “drop-in center” closer to where the women and girls are most likely active. This center would be easily accessible for those who need immediate help with things such as an STI test or medical attention.
In the future, TVF also hopes to create additional homes for survivors, with a half-acre already purchased for expansion. But for now, the foundation believes in the “quality over quantity” motto when it comes to helping these women create a new sense of life after trafficking.
If you believe someone you know is being trafficked, call TVF at 469.405.7149 or the crisis hotline at 469.405.7148.
Common signs of trafficking:
- The person seems overly fearful, submissive or paranoid.
- The person is deferring to another person before giving information.
- Clothing is inappropriately sexual or inappropriate for the weather.
- A minor is unaccompanied at night or falters in explaining who they are with and what they are doing.
- Identification documents are held by another.