The 2012 Women’s Initiative Grant: Tim Matsui on Sex Trafficking

From 7-9pm young women, ages 15 to 22, prepare for a night of work at the Violin Karaoke bar in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Their job is to sell drinks to customers who book the karaoke rooms; in the neighboring dance club, also part of the Violin, there are cocktail waitresses. However, many are also freelance sex workers or 'bar girls' who make their own arrangements with the customers for a 'date.' Most of the customers are asian; they are either Thai, Korean, Chinese, or Japanese. The Thai sex industry model is rapidly developing in the Cambodian capitol, Phnom Penh. Tim Matsui

From 7-9pm young women, ages 15 to 22, prepare for a night of work at the Violin Karaoke bar in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Their job is to sell drinks to customers who book the karaoke rooms; in the neighboring dance club, also part of the Violin, there are cocktail waitresses. However, many are also freelance sex workers or ‘bar girls’ who make their own arrangements with the customers for a ‘date.’ Most of the customers are asian; they are either Thai, Korean, Chinese, or Japanese. The Thai sex industry model is rapidly developing in the Cambodian capitol, Phnom Penh. Tim Matsui

In 2012, Tim Matsui was awarded our first Alexia Foundation Women’s Initiative Grant. His proposal promised to examine the growing, frightening trend of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking in the Seattle area, with his project “Leaving the Life: Stories of the Survivors of Prostitution and Pimping.”

Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking is a subclass of prostitution where children are sold for sex. The question of consent is mute, as a minor cannot legally give it. Children are being sold for sex, often by people who have gained their trust, like a family member or a supposed boyfriend, frequently much older. This is happening all over the world, and the United States has awoken to the fact that is it also happening here.

With his Alexia Grant, Tim Matsui followed the trail of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking.

At the time of applying for the grant, Tim had had wide experience documenting issues of sexual violence. He began work on these issues documenting stories of rape and abuse. He founded a non profit that used multimedia to create dialogue about the lasting effects of sexual violence on individuals and communities. The materials were distributed to crisis centers and classrooms throughout the United States. Following that, Tim spent three years documenting sex and labor trafficking in Cambodia.

With his Alexia Grant, Tim followed the trail of Minor Sex Trafficking. He rode along with law enforcement officers, sitting in on their stings. He captured a young woman named Natalie’s story of being trafficked and of her escape. He answered the unpredictable calls of Lisa, another young woman, who was addicted to heroin and a prostitute. He spent months of his life the story of Minor Sex Trafficking in the Seattle area.

One of the exceptional things Tim did with this project is post updates of his progress and the people he has met in the pursuit of this story. Through Tim’s writing, one meets the many people tied up in sex trafficking in his story and learns about the difficulties of covering such a terrible issue. You can see all of his posts here.

Currently, Tim’s project is in the final stages. He partnered with the Emmy award winning storytelling firm, MediaStorm, to create a feature length documentary on the stories of the street. It will be available soon. You can see the trailer above.

We are so proud to have been able to support this important project and we look forward to receiving proposals for the coming Women’s Initiative Grant.

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