EL PASO, Texas - County Commissioners Tuesday approved a $31,000 contract to hire a prostitution prevention advocate.
The full time position was made possible through a partnership with The Center Against Sexual and Family Violence (CASFV). The goal is to help women find success outside of the sex industry.
"A lot of people think of it as a victim-less crime, and it's not," said Teresa Chavira, a law enforcement advocate with the CASFV.
The $31,000 grant will go to fund Chavira's position. She currently helps victims of human trafficking and sexual assault understand the legal process they may be navigating. Chavira is a retired police officer who worked 26 years for the city.
"We think of the people involved, the people actually being charged, as victims," Chavira said. "And so when we look at their history and their past, we tent to realize and understand that they have been victims at other times in their lives, a lot of times of sexual assault."
The position complies with a state law passed in June 2013. It requires each Texas county to take a non-adversarial approach to prostitution prevention.
Funding from the position will be provided as part of a $150,000 state grant awarded to help El Paso County hire the full-time program advocate in addition to a part-time counselor and/or therapist.
The County received the grant to establish a structured nine-month program benefiting approximately 25 women.
Some of the latest data available compiled by the Austin American Statesman in 2012 shows there were 350 people serving time in state jail or prison due to prostitution convictions.
The CASFV program approached prevention with "integrated interventions" which include mentoring and providing women with mental health services.
To learn more about Project ESTEEM, you can email claArreola@epcounty.com