Leaving the Life: Stories of the Survivors of Prostitution and Pimping
There is a new name on the streets: Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking. This sub-class of prostitution is distilled down to children sold for sex in the United States. In separating children from adults, Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) avoids much of the controversy of adult prostitution; that there is freedom of choice or that it is exploitation. Many agree that children should not be sold for sex, and the U.S. is finally realizing this is a home issue.
Deputy Andy Conner is a King County Sheriff who started a drop-in center for prostitutes. In 2005, while arresting prostitutes, Conner was repeatedly asked the same question: "Help get me out of the life." By August, 2011, he and two fellow deputies created the center. Running on a shoestring budget, they are an example of the grassroots organizations the US State Department has said, in its 2012 Trafficking in Persons report, are leading the global anti-human trafficking effort.
Seattle, and King County, are a hot-bed for 'new' approaches to countering sex trafficking. A character-driven story about Conner will expose the issue's gritty core. As a patrol officer, Conner is on the streets. He is the narrative thread, the viewers' lens through which they see the prostituted juveniles, the pimps, and the johns who create demand. Yet, as the founder of an aftercare center, his is more than a law enforcement officer; he embodies a bridge across the institutional divide of law enforcement, prosecution, and social services. It is a victim-centric movement, backed by a growing federal effort, to fight human trafficking.
This story shows someone actively working toward change. As a main character, Conner provides inspiration, education, and greater likelihood of viewer engagement. It is not my goal to end prostitution, but I believe it is possible to decrease the victimization of children who, through coercion, violence, or threat of violence by their pimps are satiating the sexual demands of Seattle area men. It is a demand American society is reticent to recognize.
Over a decade ago I started on a similar path, albeit naively. As an outdoor educator I was exposed to a group of high school students rationalizing an investigation, and subsequent suicide, of a teacher alleged to have sexually abused his students. As I began documenting these students, an increasing number of friends shared their stories of rape and abuse. I documented these as well. Before long I founded a non profit that used documentary multimedia to create dialog about the lasting effects of sexual violence on individuals and communities. My work was distributed nationally to crisis centers and licensed by two military branches. Later, I wrote a successful grant to the Open Society Institute, expanding our engagement program from a dozen presentations to 65 classrooms within a year.
As my interests changed, I focused on southeast Asia. I visited over three years, documenting sex and labor trafficking and producing a victim-to-survivor story. I continue to follow the issues. This work is my foundation for understanding domestic human trafficking and realizing the US is behind in many respects; we have barely acknowledged the extent of the problem and our methods rarely address the needs of the victim. This is what makes the Seattle area one of the leaders in the US: an inter-agency victim-centric approach.
The International Labor Organization stated in June of 2012 that more women are being trafficked across the globe than men. Labor trafficking is the predominant form of trafficking but, with females representing 98 percent of sex trafficking victims, when combined with predominantly male labor trafficking victims, sex trafficking tips the gender scale.
A recent study by the City of Seattle found prostitution often starts at the age of 13-14 years. The research identified 238 prostitution-involved youth and estimated 300-500 in the city at any one time.
Drawing on the study, a movement began in the Seattle area to address Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking with an appropriate response: victim centric, aftercare focused, and utilizing all of the Federal and State laws available, even creating new laws.
The story I propose diverges from the typical victim story, instead focusing on change-agents. My approach is to use both still photography and video to edit and produce a multimedia project. I am proficient in all these areas, but enjoy working as a team and am delighted that Alexia is supporting multimedia efforts. I see this as the ideal grant enabling me to continue work on an issue I've spent more than a decade pursuing.
Emmy-nominated multimedia journalist and producer with over ten years’ experience in documenting editorial news, features and producing non-profit and corporate communications. A storyteller of strong, character driven narratives who is equally comfortable in the field or the studio, and whose experience in each adds to overall production value.
Matsui has extensive experience working with trauma and victimization, with a deep knowledge of human trafficking and the interconnectedness of social, economic, and environmental issues. Bachelor of Arts, Communications, Science Minor, Geology, University of Washington.
A 'john' is arrested for possesion of 41 grams of crack cocaine and a firearm. Having already served 14 years for prior convictions, detectives say he is looking at another five years. He was stopped for picking up a known prostitute. Tim Matsui/Alexia Foundation
Handcuffed, 19-year-old Lisa, who was just pulled from the car where she was providing sex for money, waits to be questioned by SeaTac police. Tim Matsui/Alexia Foundation
A married man with a baby seat in his car is arrested for picking up a young woman for commercial sex. Tim Matsui/Alexia Foundation
A 19 year-old woman, detained during a prostitution sting, is questioned by detectives from the King County Sheriff's Office. The sting was intended to find minors and hopefully arrest pimps. Tim Matsui/Alexia Foundation
Denise Sams, Center Director at the Genesis Project, speaks with Lisa on one of the nights she chose to stay and try to detox on her own. Tim Matsui/Alexia Foundation
At the Boulevard Motel, Lisa's 42-year-old ex boyfriend conveys his love for her just before she goes into detox. Lisa called him a 'hustler' and said he'd served time for dealing meth and continued to do so. In love with him, she continued to see him although he was sleeping with other girls, got one pregnant, and denied their relationship except when she had a motel room to sleep in. She later started calling him a pimp. Tim Matsui/Alexia Foundation
Lisa, just before an attempt to detox in a center, prepares one last syringe of heroin. Though this detox attempt lasted only an hour, it was one of many increasingly longer efforts to kick her habit and try to leave the life of prostitution. Tim Matsui/Alexia Foundation
On her way to work, 17-year-old "Natalie," a survivor of domestic minor sex trafficking, hugs her father Tom. Trafficked in the Seattle area, the family moved to the southwest after surviving the ordeal. Natalie was sold for sex by the pimp Baruti Hopson for over three months through the website Backpage.com. Tim Matsui/Alexia Foundation
17-year-old "Natalie," a survivor of domestic minor sex trafficking, now lives with her parents, Nacole and Tom, in the southwest where they relocated after surviving the ordeal. Natalie was sold for sex by the pimp Baruti Hopson for over three months through the website Backpage.com. Tim Matsui/Alexia Foundation
Father and daughter sit outside the family's new home in the southwest. 17 year old "Natalie," was trafficked for sex in the Seattle area at the age of 15. Tim Matsui/Alexia Foundation