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Arizona Identifies & Responds To Human Trafficking

By: Joanna Jauregui

Senior Program Coordinator

Arizona Combatting Human Trafficking McCain Institute / ASU

On January 20, 2022, the Arizona Human Trafficking Council, in partnership with the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family and the McCain Institute for International Leadership, held the 4th Annual Arizona Human Trafficking Symposium, bringing together stakeholders from across the state in order to strengthen multidisciplinary collaboration and improve the way we identify and respond to trafficking in Arizona. Attendees heard from subject matter experts on the realities of human trafficking along the southern border, labor trafficking and outreach to vulnerable workers in Arizona, prosecution of sex trafficking offenders, as well as what is needed in victim services from direct providers and lived experience experts.

Arizona faces numerous challenges when it comes to human trafficking.

Child sex trafficking can be a difficult topic to discuss for many. Still, without those conversations, it becomes even more challenging to identify. Community awareness and skills-based training, and prevention education are crucial to preventing this abuse and ensuring communities are equipped to identify and respond using a trauma-informed approach. While the council and the anti-trafficking community do incredible work in this regard, more training, resources, and buy-in are needed from communities across the state. Specifically, organizations and individuals in sectors such as health care, behavioral health, law enforcement, education, and advocacy, that can leverage their experience, networks, and passion for protecting vulnerable populations into actionable solutions.

Moving away from the sensationalized narrative of human trafficking, while kidnapping and violence are elements of exploitation, more communities need to be aware that this abuse occurs in families, to vulnerable individuals and teens engaged in survival sex (a term that replaces responsibility on the victim, rather than demonstrating there are systemic issues that lead to vulnerability). This includes the conflation of human trafficking and smuggling.

Services and support for rural communities is a challenge. There are amazing champions across the state committed to supporting survivors, but like much of the country, staff turnover burnout means more stress on individuals working in health care, social services, law enforcement, and health care.

More resources for adult sex trafficking survivors, parents, caregivers, and families of victims and programs and resources that are specific to labor trafficking.

Arizona will continue to stay the course in addressing these challenges.

Reducing barriers or access to services; coordinating care for vulnerable youth through implementation of the Collaborative Model; identifying and securing funding opportunities to increase capacity, services and work directly with communities to provide accurate and specific information; proactively collaborate to offer training and technical assistance.

The best way to learn about the work that is happening to address these challenges is by joining a council meeting or connecting with your local coalition.

We encourage Arizonans to find ways to support your local coalition or task force and work collaboratively with them to identify needs in your community. Currently, we work with partners in Coconino, Maricopa, Mohave, Pima, Pinal, Yavapai, Yuma Counties. These are just the ones we know about- if you are unsure how to get connected, reach out to the AZHTC. If there isn't one, consider starting one - the council can help assist.

Donate to local Arizona-based organizations providing direct care, advocacy, and training to victims and survivors of trafficking.

Advocate for training among the professional and education communities.

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