'Project Rose' helps accused prostitutes get help, avoid arrest - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

'Project Rose' helps accused prostitutes get help, avoid arrest

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -
Police were out in full force on Thursday and Friday trying to combat a major issue in our city - sex trafficking and prostitution.

But they're not taking the accused women to jail; they're taking them to a place where they can get help.
 
This operation is called Project Rose, and the goal is to get these women help and get them off the street. 

"I was afraid to leave because if I left what would happen to me?," said Kathleen Mitchell.

Mitchell was on the streets of Phoenix for more than 20 years. She said she was afraid to leave her boyfriend, who became her pimp. 

"He beat many of the women, baseball bats, golf clubs, broken legs, arms, concussions," Mitchell said. "He didn't beat me but he didn't have to because I saw him do it."

Eventually she got arrested, served her time, and started a program to help other women. Now she volunteers at Project Rose where, twice a year, police go out in force and take accused prostitutes to a safe location. They can get clothes, food, a medical examination, and help navigating the services for them in the Valley.  

"We have people who are coming here who need $50 to pay rent on their hotel today or they have childcare issues," said Mitchell.

Dominique Roe-Sepowitz with the ASU School of Social Work help jump start Project Rose. This is the fifth Operation Rose, which lasts two days. 

"Today is Friday, it's payday, so people are looking to buy sex," Roe-Sepowitz said. 

Roe-Sepowitz said their success rate is 35 percent - those who are now leading productive lives. The other 65 percent may just not be ready, or are still dealing with the challenges that got them there in the first place.  

"Boyfriends who are coercing them to do it or having drug addictions that are really hard to combat," Roe-Sepowitz said.

But they said if even one woman's life is changed, this operation is worth the effort. 

"Some of these women and girls say, well, I chose to do this," Mitchell said. "You chose it because you didn't know what your options were."

To date, Project Rose has helped rescue 330 women. For more information, visit: http://www.projectphoenixwebsite.com
 
Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
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