A secret shelter for women released from prostitution was formalised in Innsbruck yesterday, after working secretly for some time, to make sure it could be opened without risks for its guests. The shelter, which accommodates five women and their children, is run by the association “Solwodi – Solidarity with women in distress”, founded in 1985 by Lea Ackermann, a German nun who back then was on a mission in Kenya and met some ex prostitutes who had fled from human trafficking. The Austrian section of Solwodi was founded in 2012 and brings together six orders of nuns who, in mixed groups, run a number of initiatives. The Innsbruck shelter is run by Sisters of the Divine Saviour, Sisters of the Congregation of Jesus and Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. Austria is a place of transit and destination for the trade of prostitutes from East Europe and Africa: “Thousands of women – especially foreign ones – are taken to Austria to work as prostitutes and are often victims of a trade – points out sister Patricia Erber, a sister of the Divine Saviour who is president of Solwodi Austria – and unfortunately the victims cannot always be easily identified, and prosecuting the offenders can be even harder”. Sister Erber explains what role the nuns play, with the help of social workers and psychotherapists: “We are called to look at reality and not to avert our eyes from the exploitation of women and girls who are abused and enslaved”.