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Sex Trafficking

Recruitment Goes Social

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Jessi Knight, volunteer for a prostitution outreach program at the Phoenix Dream Center called The Rescue Project.

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Sex Trafficking Thrives In The Phoenix Metro
Sex Trafficking Safety Tips For Parents

Social Media And Crossover Publications From Major Media Companies Are Among The Tools Which Profiteers Of Sex Trafficking Use To Lure Their Victims


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The Sociology Of Sex Trafficking
“Funding, and specialization of these organizations for trafficking victims is, historically, very compartmentalized because most of it is private funding, and such organizations typically serve very specific victim demographics,” said Katie Resendiz of Arizona Training and Resources to Stop Trafficking (AZ TRUST).

These days, many are federally funded, for example through the U.S. Department of Justice or U.S. Health and Human Services; and, Arizona League to End Regional Trafficking (ALERT) and Catholic Charities Community Services Arizona’s Dignity House have expanded in their demographic scope of service, she said.

“And more broadly speaking, interdepartmental and inter-organizational and inter-institutional collaboration are critical for cohesive, progressive, effective efforts,” Resendiz said.

Comprising law enforcement organizations, domestic violence shelters, health care providers, and the like, working together, there are some 60-plus organizations in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area that are seriously invested in the issue, and statewide, that number is even greater, she said.

“Looking at how the sexualization of youth contributes to health issues in general is amazing. With older victims, pimps see them as a lot more disposable,” Resendiz said. “The hypersexualization of the youth and commodification of women’s bodies is exactly why we have a sex-trafficking crisis in the United States. We train young boys to think of women as objects and sex as something to be purchased, and we train women to think of their bodies as purchasable.”

Even more persistent than the advertising saturation for alcohol and tobacco products (such as Virginia Slims cigarettes’ classic misogynistic tagline “You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby”) in the general marketplace at large, consider the constant advertisements which contextualize sexuality with the marketplace and economy that are found in seemingly every conceivably possible secular market transaction and right of way.

And in the marketplace of ideas, it is not only the paid commercial advertisements that make a hard sell for the sexualization of youth.

“People of color and people of poverty in this culture have a rare few examples of “successful” living, which is largely portrayed as limited to either sports, entertainment, or a criminal subculture,” Resendiz said. “Teaching everyone and reigning in the expectation that we value every single individual in our community (is a goal), but it is hard to connect that to using sex in advertising.”

Nevertheless, looking at the misogyny and racism in media, and thinking of them as just a joke, is actually teaching or reinforcing that actual message to ourselves and teaching it to our children, Resendiz said.

The community’s call to action for this issue involves 1) understanding the definition of sex trafficking and communicating that to our family, and 2) looking at one’s own community and evaluating what you might do to support the existence of trafficking and what can be done to tear it down, she said.

“Because it really comes down to healthy relationships,” Resendiz said. “And if you see something, say something, because if it looks bad, it probably is.”

Healing and Recovery for the Victims of Sex Trafficking
Founded in 2006, the Phoenix Dream Center is one of the municipal sex trafficking task force affiliates. It currently has four residential programs. The Hope Wing, for single and women and girls from 14 to 26 years of age, is designed for both pregnant and non-pregnant clients, and is a therapeutic transitional living program geared toward the spiritual and physical healing of young women who have fallen victim to sexual exploitation through human trafficking (for more information visit

“Thirty percent of them come to us pregnant,” the center’s executive director said.

Missionary kids from throughout the United States “come in to learn how to do the outreach we do at the Dream Center (at least 100 outreach operations per week, for example at juvenile corrections and prison facilities and in the streets), gaining intimate relationships with low income, high risk communities,” Steele said. “We call it ‘Church on the Street’.”

The center itself began as an outreach movement, and success of that program led to its current campus footprint, which houses 300 people. The organization still continues to grow, and satellite campuses are being planned in the Phoenix metro, Steele said.

There are 183 churches in the Phoenix Dream Center’s network. Its $2 million budget is supported by individual donors (60 percent), churches (25 percent), and 15 percent of its funding is through grants and government programs wherever their requisites do not impede core values and missions, Steele said. A large open house is planned for May 17 at the center, which features a rooftop solar array that generates an electricity savings valued at $80,000 per year.

Classes at the center are life-recovery and spiritually based, and are taught by retired police, firefighters, and other first responders.

The center also has a foster care single adult program, as nearly 600 kids in Arizona age out of foster care each year, against the backdrop of an unfortunate 50-percent fail rate for foster kids within their first year as young adults, Steele said. The facility also has an single adult living program for employed men and women over 18, and a Christian life-recovery school for single men and women over 18 who are unemployed. The main Phoenix Dream Center campus serves 12,000 meals per week.

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It is one of 10 Dream Center affiliates nationwide, and one of 187 worldwide. The organization works intimately with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Phoenix center’s Hope Wing boasts a 96 percent success rate, with success defined, one year after graduation, as a measure of spiritual, sociological, and financial stability. Currently there is a long waiting list for rooms in the Hope Wing, and the campus is currently remodeling to open new rooms at the facility.

“My primary focus is on the victims at large,” said Jessica Knight, sex trafficking outreach director at the Phoenix Dream Center. “So, educating the girls on what sex trafficking recruitment looks like, providing resources to them if they decide sexual exploitation is a field they no longer want to work in, and then being that support system for them when they feel they are being recruited into sex trafficking or just wanting to get out.”

The center’s outreach protocol is divided into four categories: first contact, post contact, community partnership, and resource center.

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