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Film Trailer: “The Long Night” Coming Soon from MediaStorm, Tim Matsui, and The Alexia Foundation

November 3rd, 2013

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View the original post at the Alexia Foundation’s blog on 9/04/2013.

The Long Night, a feature film by Tim Matsui and MediaStorm, gives voice and meaning to the crisis of minors who are forced and coerced into the American sex trade. See the project at http://mediastorm.com/publication/the-long-night

From the Alexia Foundation’s blog:

“Tim’s honesty and belief in the importance of the story allowed him access to these difficult scenes and emotions. Carey Wagner worked with Tim to provide additional footage and encouragement. The Long Night is a testimony to the lives of those who have lived, and survived, the crisis of domestic minor sex trafficking.

“This isn’t a film with an agenda,” explains Tim Matsui. “It’s a story about people facing circumstances that I cannot imagine having to deal with myself.”

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ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “The Motel, Part 2” A Women’s Initiative Grant Update

October 20th, 2013

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This was originally posted to the: Alexia Foundation’s blog on 10/15/2013.

(Caption: Lisa in an interview room while in jail. She was arrested for prostitution and spent a week in jail, just long enough to suffer through the physical effects of heroin detox.)

I happened to drop in one evening when Lisa wanted to do a movie and dinner in Jane’s motel room. Lisa wasn’t there yet, so I accompanied Jane to the grocery store across the street.

Jane left home at 13, spent the last of her teenage years in Mexico, and has four children with an abusive husband. She has another child with a boyfriend who spends more time in jail than not. She’s got a crack habit. And she’s got a soft spot for Lisa.

This wasn’t always the case. As we walked through the produce aisles, picking avocados for fresh guacamole, Jane confessed she’d been pretty mean to Lisa. I don’t remember the details, but it seems that on the street, especially with drugs, you don’t have much more than your reputation.
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ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “The Motel, Part 1” A Women’s Initiative Grant Update

October 15th, 2013

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This was originally posted to the: Alexia Foundation’s blog on 10/11/2013.

There’s a series of low-slung motels along Pacific Highway South. They sit side-by-side, their balcony-style hallways shouting distance apart. Every day, thousands of cars stream along the median-split thoroughfare, passing weathered signs and week-long specials.
I visited one motel regularly, looking for Lisa, the girl in the robe. Since she hung out in the area, I did too.

In August, hundreds of cops descended on the motels. They drove up with armored vehicles, wore black tactical gear, and shut the motels down. The cops said the motels were “crime dens.” The owners allowed residents to sell drugs and prostitution – the phrase needs reworking, another work to make it clearer – to sell drugs and to commit prostitution, something like that, taking a fee for each visitor, each transaction.

I’d heard complaints about the owners and their fees. But the people living there, many who were self-admitted addicts, didn’t see much choice. It was part of the lifestyle.

What follows are a series of vignettes from the place I frequented while filming “The Long Night.”
Some names have been changed.

Jane waiting at the motel, her room busy.

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ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “Tom, A Father’s Search for His Daughter” A Women’s Initiative Grant Update

June 29th, 2013

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This was originally posted to the: Alexia Foundation’s blog on 6/27/2013.

He’s a big man, tall and broad in the shoulder, with large hands. They are no longer rough and calloused, like I imagine they were when he was a trucker. The deep huskiness of his voice, a smoker’s, lends itself to the cadence of his speech. Deliberate, thoughtful, and paced so a drag on the cigarette feels natural.

Tom, along Pacific Highway South, also known as "the track."

Except that night.

Tom was speaking fast, a fluid stream-of-consciousness monologue. The window to the rental car was cracked, drawing his smoke out into the evening air. Rap played loudly on the satellite radio.

“To be a hunter,” he said, “you need to think like your prey.”

“I hate this music,” he gestured toward the dash, “But I used to listen to it. It’s what they listen to.”

Tom was showing me what he used to do, every day, while his daughter was missing. He would start in Tacoma, amongst the seedy motels and clubs, then drive Highway 99 north until Everett. The old highway changes names along the way; Pacific Highway South, International Boulevard, Aurora. But for many it is just one thing: The Track. It’s where one goes to find prostitutes, and Tom knew his daughter was one.

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ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “Lisa, the First Detox” A Women’s Initiative Grant Update

June 20th, 2013

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This was originally posted to the: Alexia Foundation’s blog on 6/19/2013.

Mid morning, I forget the day, and she texted. ALL CAPS. I used to have a regular work schedule, but with some of the late nights I’ve been keeping it’s been hard. First it was riding with the cops, on a 5pm to 1am shift, but recently I’ve been following Lisa, the young woman in the robe.

She seems to live in three hour increments, which is about the longest she’ll go between getting high. She’s doing nearly three grams of black a day, often cooking the tar-like heroin with a couple crystals of meth. The clockwork of her habit supersedes all other things; daylight, food, shelter and especially me, the tag-along journalist she sometimes lets into her life.

“SORRY ABOUT LAST NIGHT MY BAD BUT HEY I NEED A HUGE FAVOR I NEED TO GET A HOLD OF SOMEONE FROM GENESIS ASAP MY PHONE IS ABOUT TO DIE AND NO CHARGER BUT I AM AT SAFEWAY ON 216 AND WANT TO CHECK INTO DETOX NOT NOW BUT RIGHT NOW BEFORE I CHANGE MY MIND AS LONG AS ITS MEDICAL THO”

Lisa grabs a last smoke before entering the detox center.

Catch as catch can. Sometimes she reaches out, only to disappear. Sometimes I find her, walking, working. This time she was making a big move. She’s got my number, because I’m persistent, but had lost the number for the Genesis Project, a drop in center started by police for people like her.

When we arrived, she was fidgeting at an outdoor table, amazingly still there. She hadn’t slept in the past couple of days and had been “around,” essentially drifting between friends’ motel rooms and different dates. With the rain, she didn’t have a lot of those. She has a few regulars, but Lisa primarily prostitutes from the street. She’s been doing that for six years, when she was turned out by a pimp at 13. He’s in jail now, for murder.
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ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “Natalie” A Women’s Initiative Grant Update

June 17th, 2013

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This was originally posted to the: Alexia Foundation’s blog on 12/27/2012.

When I felt the first sweat, I was sitting on the floor, in thick brown carpet, with my back to the wood stove. My mouth started to water, filling with that metallic taste accompanying….there it was. Stomach cramp. I knew I was going to puke.

The Hot Seat for the Interview

I put my camera down, still listening to what Natalie (not her real name) was saying, her parents weighing in on occasion. I was there, for her and her family, to tell their story. I’d spent the past three days with them. I’d walked them through an intensely emotional series of interviews; they showed me their life, opening up ever more, a trust of proportion for which I have no scale.

And now I was in their living room, sure I was going to be sick.

I put on my jacket, thinking of an excuse to go out to the car, so I could heave out of earshot; they’d surely hear me in their bathroom. I felt like I had food poisoning, which I’ve experienced often enough. Natalie had cooked that evening and I didn’t want to embarrass her. In fact, they’d been so welcoming I’d eaten nearly every meal with them.
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ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “Graddon” A Women’s Initiative Grant Update

June 17th, 2013

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This was originally posted to the: Alexia Foundation’s blog on 12/21/2012.

The meeting was set up, but not in an “are you available” fashion. The communications officer simply said when it would be.

I arrived at SeaTac City Hall on time, then sat outside a locked door observing a receptionist behind thick glass. Waiting. It was December 4. A mini-summit was happening behind closed doors.

Prior to my request to report on their department’s work on domestic minor sex trafficking, a commercial video production team had worked with them on the same subject. And it got messy. If I were to over-simplify, I would say the film crew got too involved. So when I asked about documenting the work of the department, I felt the need to underscore that I am a journalist, not a participant. I observe.

Major James Graddon

That was in September, and I was growing nervous about being able to tell the story I had proposed for the grant. There was an internal investigation and media policies were being revised; I might not have the access I thought.

My proposal is based on the story of a cop who creates a shelter for prostitutes. He was exasperated by prison’s revolving door. Because some were asking for it, he wanted to find a way to help get the women and young girls he was arresting out of “the life.” He started talking to them, listening to their stories, and came to realize for many they didn’t have a choice; they were living in fear, being run by pimps.
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ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “Leslie” A Women’s Initiative Grant Update

June 17th, 2013

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This was originally posted to the: Alexia Foundation’s blog on 12/07/2012.

She offered me tea when I arrived. I accepted; a mug of green. While she prepared it, I looked around her office, an interior room in the building. Her desk was far cleaner than mine, and her book shelf held what you’d expect of someone working with homeless youth. I turned to the wall.

Affixed beside a white board were two large sheets of paper from an easel pad. All were covered in multicolored handwriting. A lot of it I recognized from my work in trauma. I looked closer; it was specific to prostitution trauma.

Leslie Briner, who works for YouthCare, a Seattle non profit serving homeless youth, did a lot of direct services client work but found her interest drawn back to policy. That was what I was looking at on the wall. Policy development for addressing domestic minor sex trafficking.

Leslie Briner Portrait

A lot of it related to the marginalizing of women, creating a space where they are vulnerable, decreasing their options, and, once they’ve been subordinated, using them as objects.

The idea is that we all do this, whether we are aware of it or not. It is ingrained in our culture.

I was reading Leslie’s thought stream, laid out on the wall. She was framing the issue, but the view she was revealing pointed toward solutions. Toward resiliency and hope.

I was seated when she returned with the tea, after which we fell into an easy conversation. My being the journalist and her being in social services, I had expected some conflict. I realized I had been afraid of her and had felt I needed to prove to her my intentions weren’t exploitive. Instead, I was surprised to find how similar some of our thoughts and approaches to the issue are.

And she got it, she saw what I am trying to do with stories and how this can help her with the work she is doing. While she’s researching and authoring policy, at the heart of what she’s doing is trying to change our cultural norms.

Youthcare is one of the agencies in Seattle at the heart of the response to domestic minor sex trafficking. They were also a client of mine, as I helped them update their entire image library last year. Some of what I learned was touching, difficult, and can’t be talked about. It’s one of the reasons Leslie shifted from direct services to policy development.

At the end of our conversation I felt heartened, more confident and hopeful. Leslie is a wealth of knowledge, an incredible resource, and is driven in her work.

Asking if I could take an iPhone snap of her for social media, I pointed to the white board.

“Tell me about that note you’ve highlighted,” I asked.

Written in large letters, separated from her notes on the stigma prostitutes face were these words:

“You Never Know the End of the Story”

“That’s my reminder to keep moving forward every day,” she said.

Indeed.

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ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “Organization for Prostitution Survivors” a Women’s Initiative Grant Update

June 17th, 2013

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This was originally posted to the: Alexia Foundation’s blog on 12/05/2012.

I sat, on the end of the row of chairs, feeling like the journalist. The outsider, the observer, the untrusted. Not because my intention is exploitive, but because I don’t directly help people. I tell stories, hoping the people who see them will learn something and want to act on their new knowledge.

I was at a training meeting for the Organization of Prostitution Survivors (OPS); the intention of the series was to get volunteers and board members on the same page, although most already were.

The room was split fairly evenly between survivors of prostitution and social services providers, though to categorize so simply is unjust. Many fit both roles and, it seemed, all had some kind of a story.

This evening’s training was on trauma. Single event, vicarious; there are many forms. The evidence of trauma manifests itself in many ways too. While I observed, I was beginning to remember.Meeting Space for the Organization for Prostitution Survivors

Like the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting next door, whose cheers and clapping I could hear through the wall, this group thrived on sharing. On honesty and vulnerability. Some were talking about horrific experiences they owned; to do this meant trusting the people in the room.

The only reason I was in the room is I have been researching the story of domestic minor sex trafficking in Seattle for four years, hunting for funding and trying to do this without repeating earlier mistakes; the kind where I overextend myself financially and personally.

And that’s when it clicked. Sitting in that chair I remembered, and my own story became clearer.
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ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “JP” A Women’s Initiative Grant Update

June 17th, 2013

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This was originally posted to the: Alexia Foundation’s blog on 11/30/2012.

I met James on a cold, clear night. There was a rally for the homeless in Westlake Park, in downtown Seattle.

James was clean and sober and in search of housing. He’s been in and out of prison over the last ten years. He doesn’t want to give “the DOC,” the department of corrections, any more of his life; he says he’s old enough now that every year counts. He shows a self awareness and intent that just may keep him out. We both knew, as a formerly incarcerated person, the odds are stacked against him. Even in his search for housing.

His body was in continuous motion, physically filling space as he filled the silence with stories of prison. Clallam Bay, aka Gladiator School, where they put the young gang bangers. The penitentiary, in Walla Walla, where the guards ask, when you arrive, where you’re from. It’s so they know where to put you. Meaning, you better have a group to belong to or, for your own safety, they’ll put you in the hole. Isolation. JP a former pimp and hustler

Then I asked him what he knew of the Life. Of pimping and prostituting. He laughed; he used to pimp, he had a few girls. They came to him, he said. They wanted to be taken care of. I asked if they gave him all their money. Yes, he replied, but they were expensive. Getting their hair and nails done and everything. One time he had two girls with a crack habit and a heroin habit. It was tough, he said, hustling for those two habits.

As a journalist, I’m looking for stories that will illustrate the theme I am pursuing. Sometimes I don’t feel this is a fair way to be in a conversation, in a relationship with someone, however brief. James wasn’t the story I was looking for, but he had some history, something I could learn from. And I relaxed; I let him lead the conversation again.

What struck me most is how he saw himself; the provider for these women who went out to have sex with anonymous men, and then turned all their earnings over to him. I had the sense that in this transaction there was a kind of intimacy, however skewed in my opinion, where it wasn’t just business. That there was some kind of love. After all, he said, the girls came to him.

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TIM MATSUI CONTACT INFO

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