Colorado’s first shelter for teen sex trafficking victims ready to open

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- It’s a safe, secure, secret location near Colorado Springs for victims of the most horrific abuse. It’s called Wildflower Ranch, Colorado’s first child care facility for young female victims of sex trafficking.

Only FOX31 Denver was allowed to tour the site this week, just days before the facility opens.

The 20-acre ranch, complete with horses, chickens and the occasional deer, has been a dream come true for co-founders Jason and Michelle Korth.

The married couple operate “Restore Innocence” a nonprofit agency dedicated to helping girls victimized by the sex trade, who have nowhere to go when police take them off the streets.

“A lot of them, because they are runaways, it`s not safe for them to go home,” said Michelle Korth. That reality convinced the Korth’s to create Wildflower Ranch, a residential treatment center housed inside a 5,000 square foot home. The ranch will treat eight girls between the ages of 13 and 17 for up to two years.

There are nine full-time staff members, including a therapist, two teachers and a school principal. A converted barn serves as the fully accredited school. Jason Korth says the goal is to “Make up any school that they`ve lost or where they`re behind to try to get them back on their feet.”

The biggest distraction for the girls may be the property’s mountain views of Pikes Peak and Cheyenne Mountain.

“Five years ago when we were talking about a place like this, it was just a dream, just a vision, and to be standing here, there`s so many times I`m just in awe and I just take a deep breath and I`m just like 'wow,'” said Michelle Korth.

The beautiful and remote location isn’t just for the safety of the girls and staff, it also provides a therapeutic quality according to Jason Korth, “When you provide a safe place you can let your guard down easier. If you don`t feel safe, you`re not going to heal and process.”

Sex trafficking survivor Jessica Dillow-Crisp knows all about the need for places like Wildflower Ranch. “I wish I had, had a safe place to heal,” said the 27-year-old.

Dillow-Crisp is originally from Canada and was thrown into the sex trade by her own family. She said during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics she was forced to turn tricks for hundreds of men.

She escaped the sex trade six years and now calls Colorado home. She believes the need for places like Wildflower Ranch are long overdue, not just for the long-term therapy it offers but the education it will provide.

“Education has given me the ability to come to my own conclusions, to formulate my own thoughts, to choose to be able to believe what I believe and why I believe it,” said Dillow-Crisp.

In 2014, 97 girls were rescued from sex trafficking in Colorado, but police say where to place those girls is a huge challenge.

Denver Police Sergeant Daniel Steele works for the FBI’s “Innocence Lost” task force. He says Colorado could use ten Wildflower Ranches. “We have a massive problem across this country and we only have a few select facilities to offer care like this, so it`s something that we need to see more of.”

The Korths hope Wildflower Ranch will be the first of many treatment homes established for young victims of sex trafficking.

“We want to give them what`s left of their childhood and help them put those pieces together.  You can never make up for what`s lost but you can definitely restore it,” said Jason Korth. His wife Michelle adds, “I want to see them (girls) healed. I want to see them have a future that they deserve.”

Conservative estimates suggest more than a 100,000 kids worldwide are victims of sex trafficking.

The operating budget for Wildflower Ranch is about $1.1 million a year.

If you’d like to learn more about Wildflower Ranch, which runs mostly on donations, visit their website.

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