Leaving the Life: Stories of the Survivors of Prostitution and Pimping
2012 professional winner
At the end of August 2012, Tim Matsui was awarded the first ever Women's Initiative grant by the Alexia Foundation. Below is his proposal and the proposal images he presented. The images will be replaced with Matsui's final project once it has been submitted.
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 slum building in downtown Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where drugs and prostitution are rampant. Human trafficking survivor Srey Neth was sold here, by her mother, at age 14 to a pimp who later sold Neth's virginity for $300. Tim Matsui
Srey Neth and Lia move into the STAR House, a secondary transition home designed to help victims of sex trafficking to learn the skills to reintegrate into society without falling back to sex work. The teenagers are residents of Transitions Global and have experienced horrific physical and mental abuse largely at the hands of their fellow Cambodians. Tim Matsui
A young woman in a Phnom Penh slum. Investigators later found her mother was pimping the drug-addicted girl nightly to upwards of 10 Cambodian men. Tim Matsui
Rin checks her makeup while another girl receives makeup from Doi, a transgendered woman, who does the makeup for 12 girls of in section eight of the Violin Karaoke Bar in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Doi's day job is as staff at M Plus, an NGO providing a health clinic for sexually transmitted infections and a community center for gay, transgendered, and male sex workeres. In the evenings Doi's responsibility is the makeup for the girls of section eight for which she earns 1000 Baht per person per month; at about 12,000 Baht ($370 USD) this job nets her double the average Thai salary. From 7-9pm young women, ages 15 to 22, prepare for a night of work. 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 growing in Cambodia's capitol, Phnom Penh. Tim Matsui
Srey Kah, a prostitute after a clinic visit at the NGO "Acting for Women in Distressing Situations" (AFESIP) which conducts outreach and provides services in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for victims of sex trafficking. Srey Kah was raped at 16 in her home town, later she was sold by a friend and held captive as a sex worker, then arrived in Phnom Penh and turned to prostitution to survive; she has survived beatings, gang rapes, drugs, and self mutilation. She continues as a prostitute so she can support her mother and put her younger sister through public school. Srey Kah's story is not unique. AFESIP offers housing, education, training, and counseling for women who are victims of sex trafficking, worked as prostitutes, or are escaping domestic violence. Founded by Somaly Mam, who herself was once a prostitute and victim of trafficking and domestic abuse, AFESIP has three facilities in Cambodia and works with other NGO's to provide long term care for the women. Tim Matsui
A suspected pedophile under observation by the investigative non governmental organization APLE is repeatedly observed on the Riverfront "grooming" a 12 year-old girl with her mother's consent in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on February 3, 2008. He gives her and her 9 year-old sister gifts, entertains them, and in the evening, when it gets dark, investigators say he begins touching and kissing the 12 year-old. 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
American citizen Tomas Rapanos, who founded a Krishna-faith-based organization in India, is held in a Cambodian jail on March 9, 2008, after being arrested for suspected sexual abuse of two Cambodian street girls aged 12 and 16 years. All three were found partially clothed in a guest house in the popular Phnom Penh backpacker area of Lakeside by police who were tipped off by investigators with the non governmental organization APLE.
An increase in public relations campaigns against child sex tourism, including investigations of suspect pedophiles by NGO's like APLE, have helped to curb overt child sexual tourism by foreigners. However, evidence suggests child sex tourism has been pushed underground by the crackdown and is still very present in Cambodia, though less available to the casual sex tourist. Tim Matsui
Prostitute Srey Bee (left) relaxes before a night of sex work in a nearby park in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She lives with other prostitutes in a downtown slum known for its gangs, pimps, prostitutes, and high rate of HIV. Tim Matsui
Social workers with the Cambodian Ministry of Social Affairs sort through a sex trafficking victim's case prior to her reintegration to the community of Sihanoukville where her parents now live. Tim Matsui