World Day Against Human Trafficking

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Human Trafficking and Sex Trafficking: An Epidemic

If you or a loved on are experiencing domestic violence, please call (480) 890-3039 or 1-844-SAFEDVS.

If you or a loved on are experiencing or have experienced sexual violence, please call (480) 733-3028 to connect survivors to services.

Human trafficking is an epidemic. With 193 cases of trafficking reported this year alone in Arizona (including 143 identified sex trafficking cases), the number of individuals being victimized by this industry is ever-growing. Trafficking is no longer hidden in the shadows; it’s happening in broad daylight in our communities.

Channel 12 news reported that in May alone, over 30 individuals were arrested for charges related to a child sex trafficking operation and in February of last year, nearly 120 individuals were arrested in a single sting operation of child sex trafficking in the Phoenix area.

Though incidents of child sex trafficking operations are prominently displayed in the media, trafficking of adults is a less common story in the media, though it is just as much of a problem. A New Leaf is planning to change that.

How A New Leaf Helps Survivors of Trafficking Recover From Their Experiences

helping survivors of human trafficking

A New Leaf is well known in the community for its homeless and domestic violence shelters, but few know that services across the organization are expanding to serve more people and offer more services as the needs of the community change and become more apparent. These expansions have been particularly significant in the Domestic and Sexual Violence Services pillar, which is now a part of the community effort to support and shelter survivors of sex trafficking.

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The services, though still in development, have served dozens of trafficking survivors through A New Leaf’s Domestic Violence Hotline (SAFE-DVS), the Domestic Violence Safe Temporary Overflow Program (DVSTOP), three emergency crisis shelters, and survivor outreach programs in both Maricopa and Pinal Counties. A New Leaf plans to continue expanding outreach efforts to make services, education, and safety accessible to more survivors for years to come.

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A New Leaf’s Work to Increase Services for Survivors of Trafficking

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In 2019, A New Leaf partnered with the International Rescue Committee to provide services to human trafficking survivors through a federal grant. Upon receiving this support, A New Leaf immediately sent staff to work attending anti-trafficking trainings, broadening group programming for shelter participants, and connecting with other leaders in the community who have been serving trafficking survivors for years.

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These community partners include the Phoenix Dream Center, StreetLightUSA, the City of Mesa’s Human Trafficking Taskforce, and the Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research (STIR) through Arizona State University. A New Leaf’s leadership also met with law enforcement agencies to learn more about the local response to trafficking and to learn how officers were trained to respond to incidents of adult sex trafficking.

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Staff members from A New Leaf were able to educate officers in how to provide trauma-informed interventions when responding to instances of trafficking and provided new perspectives on the issue of adults being sexually exploited by traffickers.

A Cutting-Edge Partnership with Arizona State University

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In early 2020, A New Leaf’s emergency crisis shelters were given an opportunity to participate in a research project with partners at Arizona State University’s Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research (STIR) where program staff were trained in completing the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and Positive Childhood Experiences (PCE) questionnaires with trafficking survivors.

Through this training, program staff learned the power of having a strong relationship with a trusted adult or service provider at a young age to build resiliency, along with how to teach resiliency-building skills to shelter residents.

Staff completed surveys with residents to gauge the usefulness of the information, and staff were surveyed to determine how completing the ACE/PCE questionnaires and having a conversation to educate client on trauma responses affected their working relationships with the resident. Survey outcomes are provided to the facilitators of the research project approximately every six months to determine the efficacy of providing resiliency education during a resident’s stay, as well as the benefit of training staff on resiliency factors.

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Providing Immediate Services to Survivors of Trafficking

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During 2020 A New Leaf’s Sexual and Domestic Violence program staff began to participate in Sex Trafficking Outreach Prevention (STOP) events facilitated by ASU’s STIR program, which provided immediate intervention in cases of trafficking alongside law enforcement partners.

At these STOP events, staff would assist survivors after a sting operation was completed to offer emotional support, resources, basic need items, safety planning, STD testing, and if space was available, shelter space at one of A New Leaf’s emergency crisis shelters. Autumn House and Faith House emergency crisis shelters regularly held bed spaces in anticipation for these events, so that if the individuals who received intervention felt ready to leave their trafficker, they would have the opportunity for a fresh start.

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How A New Leaf is Working to End Sex Trafficking in the Valley

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In 2021, A New Leaf’s Autumn House and Faith House emergency crisis shelters saw an increase in trafficking survivors entering shelter. With the help of the ACE questionnaire, staff were able to identify that many survivors in the program who were referred to shelter for a recent domestic violence experience, had also experienced sex and/or labor trafficking in their past.

This knowledge is invaluable, as it shows the cycle of violence replaying in the lives of survivors and shows the evident need for service providers in the community to provide sex trafficking education as a prevention technique, as well as outreach for those that have been victimized by this nefarious industry.

Though sex trafficking-specific services continue to be developed, A New Leaf’s Sexual and Domestic Violence program staff continue to confidently serve trafficking survivors and continue to expand services to assist more individuals and to provide services that meet the unique needs of this underserved population. A New Leaf continues to build relationships with valuable community partners with the goal of significantly reducing–and hopefully one day eliminating–the scourge of sex trafficking in the Valley.

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