On Aurora – Women’s Initiative Update from Tim Matsui

At the end of August, the Alexia Foundation awarded the Women’s Initiative Grant to Tim Matsui to document domestic minor sex trafficking in the Seattle Area. Tim is now well into the project. As he progresses, he will be sharing images, stories and mediations on his work regularly. Follow on the progress of Tim’s work on the Alexia Foundation blog as he introduces us to his characters, reflects on his work, and gives us the opportunity to understand his documentary process. Tim will also be posting his work on Instagram.

It happened one evening in early August. We saw a woman sprawled beside the road, holding her head. We looked, drove past, then my wife asked if we should stop. We did. 

I rolled down the window and asked if she was ok. She said she was in pain and everyone was driving by. She said all she needed was a ride. It was crushing, but I quickly understood what she was doing and probably why she was in pain. I asked where she wanted to go.

“Aurora,” she replied. We were 200 feet from the highway. I asked where.

“Anywhere,” she replied. “By the donut place.”

Kneeling down, I asked the woman if she was “working.” She replied, softly, that she was. She identified as a prostitute.

“Near 125th?” I asked. She replied yes. That was not a go; we had a nine year old in the back and I didn’t want him any closer to her. In the driver’s seat, my wife asked if I’d get out and talk with her. I did, and she drove up the block and waited.

Kneeling down, I asked the woman if she was “working.” She replied, softly, that she was. She identified as a prostitute.

I asked if she wanted me to call someone, that I knew of a safe place she could go. It wasn’t what she wanted to hear, because she started screaming at me for not giving her  a ride, for wanting to take care of my family, not her. She got up and walked off.

She was an adult, she wore a short black skirt, black tank top, and had a rather large black hand bag. Her hair looked to be bleached, she wore heavy makeup, and she moved erratically. 

North of 125th is where the older prostitutes tend to work. It is likely that a john or a pimp hurt her then dropped her beside the highway, leaving her to find her way back to where she would earn the night’s money; for the pimp, for the drugs, for whatever. 

For us? She walked away; you can’t force help on people who don’t want out of “the life.” 

But I, we, wanted to do something, to help. We didn’t want to turn away but, in the end, we did. And now our son is scared of the bad people who hurt her. 

“Leaving the Life” is a documentary project by Tim Matsui on grassroots efforts to address Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST). This project is funded by the Alexa Foundation’s Women’s Initiative Grant. See more posts from this project here.

One thought on “On Aurora – Women’s Initiative Update from Tim Matsui

  1. Pingback: Tim Matsui : Multimedia Journalist and Producer