Thirty-six children were reported as having been sex-trafficked in Pima County last year. Advocates fighting against sex trafficking say the issue is the lack of resources, so local organizations joined forces to learn how they can contribute.

In 2022, 46 cases of child sex trafficking were reported in Southern Arizona according to data from Mercy Care.

Dominique Roe-Sepowitz is the lead researcher of sex trafficking at Arizona State University. She said traffickers are using online ads.

Theres not a lot of law enforcement, not a lot of community action preventing sex trafficking. So you had, here in Pima County, 348 ads in 24 hours.

Sepowitzs research shows a need for more resources for victims of sex trafficking. Shes launched a sex trafficking hotline (1-877-4AZ-TIPS). The hotline is led by survivor Tanya Alegria.

I myself am a survivor. So people that have questions or maybe dont want to speak to law enforcement just yet can talk to someone that can relate to their experiences, said Alegria.

From her experience in working for behavioral health, Alegria has seen how the stigma of a victim is often misunderstood.

Its manipulation, its control, its all these things. And then you reflect on whats happening to you. And then you can reflect on that. But a lot of times youre so busy surviving and youre so busy just trying to make it to the next day. And there are times where youre self destructive and you dont really care what happens.

Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik has been active in trying to redefine who should be considered a victim. He said sex trafficking is often mistaken for self exploitation or prostitution.

We are hoping that through this forum here today to raise the whole profile of this issue both at the city level and at the regional level so that the victims can get the proper attention that they deserve under the law, said Kozachik.



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