Community partnership turns research into action to combat sex trafficking

May 30, 2013

When Arizona State University Associate Professor Dominique Roe-Sepowitz speaks about the focus of her research – to unite and support anti-sex trafficking programs in a coordinated effort to combat human trafficking, rescue its victims and provide them with treatment and shelter – her passion is unmistakable.

“Despite numerous laws designed to protect women, men and especially children from this abuse, sex-trafficking in the United States is an increasing problem and victims are often overlooked or treated as criminals rather than individuals in crisis who need help,” Roe-Sepowitz said. Download Full Image

This sobering reality is the inspiration for ASU’s Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research (STIR). Housed within the College of Public Programs and directed by Roe-Sepowitz, the office is leading research and service activities to enhance the community’s ability to identify, understand and combat human-trafficking. Additionally, the office provides leadership and support in coordinating community resources offering holistic and comprehensive services to victims.

Providing research-driven training and support services for law enforcement, legal professionals, teachers, social service and health care providers, and community advocates working in the anti-human trafficking space also are major goals of the STIR office, Roe-Sepowitz said. 

Established in January of 2013, the office is partnering with the City of Phoenix and Phoenix Children’s Hospital to present the inaugural Summit on Sex Trafficking, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., June 4, in the Cohen Center at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, 1919 E. Thomas Rd., Phoenix. More than 150 professionals representing a range of social service agencies are expected to attend the day-long summit that will address the following topics: the state of the city on sex trafficking response, legislative advocacy, public health implications, faith-based coalition building and more.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Jonathan Koppell, dean of the ASU College of Public Programs, will be among the speakers at the event.

“The summit will provide an ideal venue for discussing the scope of sex trafficking in our community and illustrating the positive steps being taken to combat it,” Roe-Sepowitz said. “We are also eager to share the details and lessons learned from the successful collaboration between the City of Phoenix Police Department and ASU’s School of Social Work that has made Phoenix a model city for its response to sex trafficking in our community,” she said.

Last fall, Roe-Sepowitz and James Gallagher, a lieutenant with the Phoenix Police Department Vice Enforcement Unit, released the findings of “One-Day Trafficking Snapshot of an Internet Service Provider” - a study conducted by a team of researchers from ASU’s School of Social Work in collaboration with the Phoenix Police Department.

Through the study led by Roe-Sepowitz and Gallagher, the researchers found that nearly 60 percent of the ads on Adult Entertainment Services were for selling sex/prostitution. Of those ads, more than 20 percent were identified by the researchers to feature potential adult and minor trafficking victims.

Using a comparative analysis, the study provided a snapshot of sex ads posted during a 12-hour period on Nov. 1, 2012 in five markets: Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and San Diego.

Gallagher said the research findings are being used to help inform efforts by Phoenix police to develop and implement arrest-alternative/intervention programs for adult victims of prostitution or sex trafficking, an approach that is increasingly becoming a model for other law enforcement agencies across the U.S.

ARISEPhoenix, a web-based outreach strategy, is the most recent innovation initiated by the STIR office in an effort to deliver vital social support services to a vulnerable and vastly underserved population. With support from key community partners, the website seeks to connect victims with options and access to the social services and resources needed to take their lives in a new direction.

Roe-Sepowitz said ARISEPhoenix extends the reach of Project ROSE (Reaching Out to the Sexually Exploited), first initiated in September 2011 as a two-day operation designed to connect sex trafficking and prostitute victims with social services through a diversion program, rather than with the criminal justice system.

The program has been repeated three times in Phoenix since the initial operation with encouraging results. Project ROSE IV, conducted earlier this month, assembled a broad coalition of social workers, police, health care providers, religious organizations and ASU social work students to provide a concentrated arrest-alternative/intervention program for adult victims of prostitution or sex trafficking.

Viewing them as victims rather than as criminals, police and social service providers working with Project ROSE IV made contact with 98 adult prostitutes who have a variety of legal, mental health, addiction and homelessness issues that led them to lives in the sex-trade. The operation was conducted in two, 12-hour shifts on May 16 and May 17.  A command post hosted by Pastor Brad Pellish was established at Bethany Bible Church in Phoenix.
The victims were able to connect on site with social service professionals who were able to assist them with and provide options for safe housing, crisis mental health counseling, medical services, options for detox and drug treatment, food, clothing and their initial interview for the Diversion Program provided by Catholic Charities.
“For clients who complete the Diversion Program, which can be a six-month commitment, charges will not be filed on the originating case,” said Robin Rue, an anti-trafficking case worker with the Arizona League to End Regional Trafficking (ALERT).

“Instead of being arrested, the clients we serve through Project Rose are provided a good meal, clothes, access to housing options, and medical and mental health services, if they are needed,” Rue said. “They’re treated with respect in an environment where they can feel safe.”

With no record of the arrest, those who complete the diversion program can focus on their recovery and are better positioned to pursue job opportunities and begin to move forward with their lives, Rue added.

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Texas trumps Softball 6-3; Sun Devils next play Michigan Saturday

May 31, 2013

Arizona State softball (50-11) fell to Texas (50-8) on May 30  by a score of 6-3  in the teams opening game of the 2013 Women's College World Series.  Up next is a 11:30 a.m. PT game against Michigan on ESPN2 on June 1.

Dallas Escobedo pitched four complete innings of hitless ball before Texas rallied in the fifth and sixth for a 6-3 score. Escobedo took the loss (30-5) while reliever Mackenzie Popescue closed out the bottom of the sixth with one strikeout. Five Sun Devils picked up hits in the game and Alix Johnson had a team-best two RBI and reached base on three occasions.   Download Full Image

ASU led 2-0 after the top of the first before Texas gained control in the bottom of the frame 4-2. ASU scored one run in the sixth but the Longhorns once again rallied back with a pair of runs to take an eventual winning lead of 6-3.

Saturday 11:30 a.m. PT vs. Michigan | ESPN2 | | Live Stats

The Sun Devils will return to the field on Saturday, June 1 against Michigan and will be aired on ESPN2 at 1:30 p.m. CT/11:30 a.m. PT.

Four complete innings of scoreless ball against Texas is what started the Sun Devils' ride in the WCWS. Déjà vu from the March 14 match up against the Longhorns saw Alix Johnson double off the left field wall to plate one to break up the no-no. Johnson pulled through once again this time on the big stage.

Elizabeth Caporuscio started the fifth-inning rally with a single through the right side.Bailey Wigness followed in the next at-bat with a single to left to set up the two-RBI double. Johnson repeated the feat from two months ago, slamming one off the left field wall and plating Wigness and pinch runner Kayla Ketchum for the 2-0 lead.

Texas tied it in the bottom of the fifth when a double to right by Taylor Thom scored Stephanie Ceo and an ASU error allowed Brejae Washington to cross home. The Longhorns then used a two-run homer by Kim Bruins to pull ahead 4-2.

It didn't take long for Arizona State to shorten the gap, 4-3. Haley Steele led the sixth inning off with her 12th home run of the year and first in the WCWS. It would be the last time the Sun Devils scored, however, eventually falling 6-3 after Texas came up with two runs in the bottom of the sixth.

Blaire Luna picked up the win, she is now 31-5 on the year. Kim Bruins earned a save, her first, after throwing 1.0 innings for Texas.

ASU will continue play in the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City on June 1 against Michigan. ASU's game will be Saturday at 1:30 p.m. CT/11:30 a.m. PT on ESPN2. The complete schedule is posted on the NCAA website, here, and will be updated on

The ASU softball program is 18-17 in 11 appearances in the WCWS and 83-48 overall in the NCAA Tournament (25 appearances). Clint Myers is 14-9 in the WCWS in seven appearances. 

ASU's last win in the WCWS was against LSU on 6/2/12 against LSU, W 6-0.

ASU's last loss in the WCWS, prior to May 30 against Texas, was on 6/3/12 against Oklahoma, L 5-3.

The last time ASU and Texas met in the WCWS was a 2-0 loss on 6/1/06. All-time series between the two teams is 6-7 dating back to 1997. ASU played Texas this season, March 14, and won 3-0.

Dallas Escobedo is 19-5 in her career in the NCAA Postseason. This year she is 5-1. In the WCWS, Escobedo is 6-3 (5-0, 2011; 1-2, 2012; 0-1, 2013).

Haley Steele's home run in the sixth inning was her 12th of the season and career first in the WCWS.

Mackenzie Popescue came in for relief of Escobedo in the bottom of the sixth, marking her first appearance in the WCWS.

Myers: 53-14
ASU Program History: 83-48, 25th appearance
ASU in WCWS: 18-17, 11 appearances
Myers in WCWS: 14-9, 7 appearances
Escobedo: 19-5; 5-1 in 2013
Popescue: 0-0; 0-0 in 2013, 1 save in 2013

Texas: 6-7 since 1997. 0-2 vs. UT in WCWS
Last meeting: W 3-0, 3/14/13
Last WCWS meeting: L 2-0, 6/1/06
2013 WCWS meeting: L 6-3, 5/30/13 

Michigan: 9-10 since 1988. 1-0 vs. UM in WCWS
Last meeting: L 5-4, 3/15/13
Last WCWS meeting: W 2-1, 5/23/02 

Oklahoma: 12-11 since 1979. 1-1 vs. UO in WCWS
Last WCWS meeting: L 5-3, 6/3/12

Nebraska: 21-10 since 1971. First WCWS meeting

Washington: 26-49 since 1993. 0-2 vs. UW in WCWS
Last WCWS meeting: L 1-0 (8), 5/29/09 

Tennessee: 1-2 since 1998. 0-1 vs. UT in WCWS
Last WCWS meeting: L 3-1 (9), 6/3/06 

Florida: 5-3 since 1998. 3-0 vs. UF in WCWS
Last WCWS meeting: W 7-2, 6/7/11

Juno Schaser

Event coordinator, Biodesign Institute