The Alexia Foundation is pleased to announce the launch of “The Long Night,” our first ever Women’s Initiative Grant Project. Set in Seattle, the work gives voice and meaning to the crisis of minors who are forced and coerced into the American sex trade. The project follows four people as they navigate this difficult world. A father searches for his daughter, a teenager struggles to break free of her drug addiction and the streets, a young girl tries to rebuild herself, and police officers try to help those trafficked break free.
The heart wrenching stories of Natalie and Lisa will give voice to the thousands of entrapped American girls
“This collaborative effort between The Alexia Foundation, photographer Tim Matsui and MediaStorm illustrates how photo stories can drive change,” says Alexia Foundation Co-Founder Aphrodite Tsairis. “The heart wrenching stories of Natalie and Lisa will give voice to the thousands of entrapped American girls. It will educate law enforcement to arrest the perpetrators not the victims. It will serve as a teaching tool to help protect a generation of minors in our country.”
According the National Runaway Hotline, 1 in 3 teens on the street will be lured towards prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that approximately 300,000 children are at risk of being prostituted in the U.S. The stories of Natalie and Lisa tell us how this can happen and what living and leaving this life really means.
“I help people tell their stories,” says Matsui. “There’s a reason the subjects of this project are being vulnerable and providing access. Natalie said the interview she gave me was her only one. She is looking forward, not behind. I feel it’s an honor, and responsibility, to be the messenger of her story.”
For the family of Nacole, Natalie and Tom, telling their story was challenging, but they also knew it was important.
“It was very trying and difficult,” says Nacole, “but on the other hand, it was empowering being able to tell our story to a person who respected us and what we were trying to do with the story, who also had the the same goals for the story.”
They participated because having their story out there and having it used for good is what they’ve always wanted for it. They want people to understand that this is not a victimless crime. They want their story to help drive change and understanding.
This is what we want for these stories as well. We look forward to their use by numerous advocates and stakeholders. Tim Matsui has developed a website for the feature length documentary film and is in the process of developing a curriculum for anyone who wants to understand this issue better. MediaStorm is promoting the project widely and facilitating its sharing. Already, “The Long Night” has been featured by The New York Times. Just hours after launch, it is becoming an important part of the conversation in the U.S. about minor sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. This project will continue to move hearts and minds for years to come.