ASU researchers receive $1.24 million grant to prevent child sex trafficking

School of Social Work Professor Judy Krysik sits in her office at the University Center in downtown Phoenix on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. Krysik and Roe-Sepowitz work just down the hall from each other. (Photo by Jonathan Williams) School of Social Work Professor Judy Krysik sits in her office at the University Center in downtown Phoenix on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. Krysik and Roe-Sepowitz work just down the hall from each other. (Photo by Jonathan Williams)

Two of the ASU School of Social Work professors are looking to expand their research and aid child sex trafficking victims with a $1.24 million grant.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded the grant to Dominique Roe-Sepowitz and Judy Krysik. A collaboration with the ASU Office for Sex Trafficking Research Intervention, the ASU Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy and the Arizona Department of Child Safety helped secure the grant.

“This is our first big successful opportunity together,” Roe-Sepowitz said. “It really meshes the two interests that we have.”

Roe-Sepowitz and Krysik specialize in similar fields of social work. Krysik is an expert in child welfare training and research, while Roe-Sepowitz has a background in working with people who have prior histories of being sex trafficked or in law enforcement.

Roe-Sepowitz said there isn’t a training for welfare workers to look for sex-trafficked victims, and she said they are able to provide a training that will be easy for workers to use with the help of the

“It’s a little bit different than other problems that other friends face,” Roe-Sepowitz said. “It is tough work.”

She said she works with adults who were sex trafficked growing up but has worked with children before. She said she wants to prevent the issue altogether.

School of Social Work Professor Dominique Roe-Sepowitz stands inside the Cronkite building on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. Roe-Sepowitz teaches classes at the Downtown campus frequently. (Photo by Jonathan Williams) School of Social Work Professor Dominique Roe-Sepowitz stands inside the Cronkite building on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. Roe-Sepowitz teaches classes at the Downtown campus frequently. (Photo by Jonathan Williams)

“If we don’t identify it earlier, they are going to turn into the clients I see everyday who are really having a tough time functioning in our world,” Roe-Sepowitz said.

Roe-Sepowitz said her clients have trouble assimilating back into society because of relationship issues and drug addiction. She said many of their children are in the welfare system.

“It’s tough work but there are a lot of successes,” Roe-Sepowitz said. “When they do well, they do really, really well.”

Roe-Sepowitz said that they have been friends since their first day.

“Judy is really brilliant and a lot of fun to work with,” Roe-Sepowitz said. “She’s really innovated and has really been a pioneer in child welfare.”

Krysik and Roe-Sepowitz started working at the University on the same day in August 2005. They are now in their 10th year at ASU.

“We work very well together,” Krysik said. “She’s a real go-getter and very passionate about her work.”

Krysik said their two fields cross with one another and go together. She said she handles more of the research side of the work.

The research team has a small research staff to help support Roe-Sepowitz and Krysik.

Social work graduate student Kristen Bracy is a member of a small research staff that supports Roe-Sepowitz and Krysik's research. Bracy said she got involved with the team when she took a class a sex trafficking class with Roe-Sepowitz.

“Dominique started out as my professor, became my boss, and now she has become a friend,” Bracy said. “I’m very close to Dominique, she’s very easy to work with.”

Bracy said she just started working with Krysik. She said Krysik is very organized and they work well together.

“It’s nice as a student to be able to work with professors that wrote our textbooks,” Bracy said. “They’re both amazing people to learn from.”

Reach the reporter at jwilli62@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @JonWilliams_23

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