CHANDLER, AZ — January is recognized as National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and dozens of local churches gathered together to bring awareness, and fight against human sex trafficking in Arizona.
More than 30 churches were represented at the second annual "A Night of Hope," a free event in downtown Chandler to bring attention to sex trafficking and get the public involved in the fight against human trafficking.
"We want to shine a light, bring hope to those who are in this darkness," said Mike Gowans, a Pastor at Bethel Church in Chandler.
The worship event featured speakers from city officials, including Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke, and an emotional story of a human sex trafficking survivor, who shared her story with the crowd.
"I ran away from home when I was 16 years old from an abusive home," said Olivia Holcomb, 18, who lived in Texas at the time.
"I found men online who would pay me because I was 16 for sexual favors," Holcomb said.
For two months, Holcomb said she would trade sexual favors for money, food or a place to sleep. She said she was often on drugs.
"It feels like your trapped basically," said Holcomb, who now lives in Chandler.
Among many informational booths at A Night of Hope, a place where people could learn jiu-jitsu self-defense techniques.
"Our program is about empowering women, victims, who are survivors," said Shanen Dunagan, Founder and CEO of nonprofit Survivors of War. "If you don't respond instantaneously, it could be the difference between life and death."
If you or someone you know needs help there is a national human trafficking hotline you can call 1-888-373-7888. You can also text 233733.
The hotline is open 24/7, and is available in both English and Spanish.