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ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “Leslie” A Women’s Initiative Grant Update

June 17th, 2013

Alexia Foundation Logo
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

Alexia Foundation Logo
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

Alexia Foundation Logo
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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ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “On Aurora” A Women’s Initiative Grant Update

June 17th, 2013

Alexia Foundation Logo
This was originally posted to the: Alexia Foundation’s blog on 11/28/2012.

It happened one evening in early August. We saw a woman sprawled beside the road, holding her head. We looked, drove past, then my wife asked if we should stop. We did.

I rolled down the window and asked if she was ok. She said she was in pain and everyone was driving by. She said all she needed was a ride. It was crushing, but I quickly understood what she was doing and probably why she was in pain. I asked where she wanted to go.
Just off Aurora Avenue
“Aurora,” she replied. We were 200 feet from the highway. I asked where.

“Anywhere,” she replied. “By the donut place.”

“Near 125th?” I asked. She replied yes. That was not a go; we had a nine year old in the back and I didn’t want him any closer to her. In the driver’s seat, my wife asked if I’d get out and talk with her. I did, and she drove up the block and waited.

Kneeling down, I asked the woman if she was “working.” She replied, softly, that she was. She identified as a prostitute.

I asked if she wanted me to call someone, that I knew of a safe place she could go. It wasn’t what she wanted to hear, because she started screaming at me for not giving her a ride, for wanting to take care of my family, not her. She got up and walked off.

She was an adult, she wore a short black skirt, black tank top, and had a rather large black hand bag. Her hair looked to be bleached, she wore heavy makeup, and she moved erratically.

North of 125th is where the older prostitutes tend to work. It is likely that a john or a pimp hurt her then dropped her beside the highway, leaving her to find her way back to where she would earn the night’s money; for the pimp, for the drugs, for whatever.

For us? She walked away; you can’t force help on people who don’t want out of “the life.”

But I, we, wanted to do something, to help. We didn’t want to turn away but, in the end, we did. And now our son is scared of the bad people who hurt her.

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WINNING THE ALEXIA FOUNDATION WOMEN’S INITIATIVE GRANT

October 17th, 2012

I was speechless when I heard over the phone, “You’re going to be busy for the next six months. You just won the Alexia grant.”

It took a moment to recover, to say thank you, but it’s taken a little while to realize the significance. Alexia is a well respected photojournalism foundation and they have supported some incredible work. To win one of their grants is a great honor.

That recognition is confidence-building, but it’s also four years of research, grant writing, and relationship building. It’s four years of reporting on human trafficking in southeast Asia. It’s another ten years of documenting the impacts of sexual violence on individuals and communities. And starting a non profit. It’s years of photography and developing my multimedia skills. It’s hands on experience with education, advocacy, and audience engagement.

All of this went into writing the grant application.

I recently gave a talk to local journalists at a monthly meet up. It was casual; a bunch of photographers and beers and a projector. My kind of thing. They asked me about the grant, looking for tips on how to get one. I picked apart my grant proposal, analyzed the application, and found that I had to go back to those moments over the years where I tried, failed, or succeeded, but each time I learned something. Something that applies to today.

Writing a successful grant isn’t just about the vision of what the end product will be or the budget required. It’s about knowing your subject inside and out, then crafting a strong story to carry it.

I won the grant. I’m still a little speechless. And excited about the work ahead.

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AIRING ON LINK TV: SREY NETH, CROSSING THE GENDER GAP

March 15th, 2011

Several months ago I entered the Link TV ViewChange contest, looking for another means of distribution for a story I felt needed to be told. As a finalist, I found Srey Neth’s story would see the distribution I hoped for. I think it is a great example of independent distribution leveraged by social media.

Yesterday, Link TV told me they’ve compiled half-hour episodes from the ViewChange entries. Srey Neth’s story will air in the “Crossing the Gender Gap” episode.

The film will air Wednesday, March 16th at 8:30pm PT/ 11:30pm ET and Saturday, March 19th at 6:30pm PT/ 9:30pm ET on DIRECTV 375 / DISH Network 9410. Srey Neth: Victim to Survivor will be part of an episode featuring inspiring stories of women fighting poverty, disease, and oppression in the developing world.

The film is also available to watch at Hulu.com/viewchange and Link TV is planning to disseminate my film through other outlets as well such as Snag Films, WGBH’s “World” Channel (which is carried on 150 PBS stations), and other international stations.

Many thanks again to Transitions Global and Srey Neth who offered me access and their trust to tell an important story.

www.linktv.org/programs/viewchange (where the “Crossing the Gender Gap” episode will be available online, starting later today)
www.viewchange.org/videos/srey-neth-victim-to-survivor (Srey Neth video on ViewChange.org)

@ViewChange (twitter)
@LinkTV (twitter)
facebook.com/viewchange
facebook.com/linktv

And don’t forget my Facebook Page and Twitter Feed!

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Posted in activisim, advocacy, articles, award, coolness, events, human trafficking, media, multimedia, publishing, recognition, social justice, video Comments Off on AIRING ON LINK TV: SREY NETH, CROSSING THE GENDER GAP

REPORT ON CONFLICT MINERALS: ARE DELL, INTEL, MICROSOFT, APPLE, ETC. PROACTIVE?

December 14th, 2010

The Enough Project released a report today on consumer electronics companies and conflict minerals mined in eastern Africa.

The Enough Project is evaluating tech companies as they begin the process of tracing minerals to their source. Following a previous post, I had an email exchange with “sjobs@apple.com” (which may have been the man himself), where the respondent said:

“We are looking into it. It’s not clear how to trace the minerals so as to know their origin. We are working with a few world-class universities to see if we can trace them. The supply chain appears too porous to control through auditing.”

Why is this important? Jonathan Hutson, Communications Director with Enough Project wrote:
“Minerals…in our everyday consumer electronics, are used to fund militias in the Congo that rape and kill thousands of civilians…Our company rankings let consumers know which products are moving toward conflict-free status.” (below chart courtesy Enough Project)

chart_ranking_electronic_companies_on_conflict_minerals“While some companies,” Hutson wrote, “such as HP, Motorola and Intel, have made some progress towards using conflict-free minerals, we found that the industry as a whole is way behind the curve to become compliant with the Frank-Dodd financial reform act and the upcoming SEC regulations on conflict minerals.” (see Section 1502, Conflict Minerals)

Responsible sourcing has been done with the apparel, forestry, and diamond industries. Not for every company, but at least consumers can now make an informed choice. I think tracing minerals is a necessary step toward ending conflict and I, as a consumer, would pay a premium for conflict-free.

Read “Getting to Conflict Free: Assessing Corporate Action on Conflict Minerals” in PDF.

Read the summary here.

Any scientists or data crunchers want to comment on the methodology of this report and quality of the data?

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Posted in activisim, advocacy, conflict minerals, human rights, human trafficking Comments Off on REPORT ON CONFLICT MINERALS: ARE DELL, INTEL, MICROSOFT, APPLE, ETC. PROACTIVE?

Media: Walter Astrada’s Project on Violence Against Women. Location: India

October 1st, 2010

MediaStorm_UndesiredI watched producer Eric Maierson sorting through hundreds and hundreds of images by photographer Walter Astrada as he did the initial work for the newly released MediaStorm piece “Undesired.”

Not only is Maierson an excellent producer, having watched his two pieces “Three Women” and “The Party,” I knew he had the voice to produce Astrada’s strong work. I only regretted I wasn’t working on the project, and that I would return to Seattle before having the chance to meet Astrada in person, when he came into the MediaStorm office.

I have much respect for Astrada’s work, particularly his portfolio from Guatemala. It is strong, visceral, and pointedly focused on the issue of violence against women. Having extensively worked in this field myself, I appreciate another photographer’s dedication not just to a single story, but to the issue as a whole.

In 2009 he won the Photojournalist of the Year NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism. He won in World Press Photo in 2006 and in 2008.

Read about Astrada, his work, and how he does it, online at the British Journal of Photography here and here.

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I’m a Mac…and I have a Dirty Secret

June 28th, 2010

Brian Storm posted this to his Twitter feed; my partner, Luciana, had mentioned it to me. And, because I talk about this when I give presentations (even pointing to my computer and holding up my iPhone), I thought it was worth a post all on its own.

Consumers–us–we buy products but many of us don’t ask our retailers to talk to the manufacturers to ask them to track their materials all the way down the supply chain, and to do so with a high level of transparency. That means, when we buy our electronics (or tomatoes or chocolate or…whatever) we often have no idea if slave labor, human trafficking, or war have tainted the products we buy.

It is a big challenge, but I believe corporations can hold their suppliers accountable, working with them to ensure there are viable and profitable options for them to supply conflict and slave-free materials for consumption. I believe the biggest part of the challenge is for consumers, like me and like you, to begin asking for this.

I wish I could point to my Mac and say “This is certified slave and conflict free.”

But I can’t. At least, not yet.

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Contributor: 2010 TIP Report by US Dept. of State

June 14th, 2010

2010_TIP_reportToday the 2010 U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons report was published online. It’s a weighty tome (printed) and a sizable download (22mb). I am honored to be one of the few photographers contributing to this important report, with an image from my work on the Cambodian border (work I am currently seeking funding to continue).

The TIP Report evaluates every country in the world for its efforts in combating human trafficking. Most notably about this year’s report, it is the first time the United States has also evaluated itself. From the report:

Secretary Clinton (June 14, 2010): “The 10th annual Trafficking in Persons Report outlines the continuing challenges across the globe, including in the United States. The Report, for the first time, includes a ranking of the United States based on the same standards to which we hold other countries. The United States takes its first-ever ranking not as a reprieve but as a responsibility to strengthen global efforts against modern slavery, including those within America. This human rights abuse is universal, and no one should claim immunity from its reach or from the responsibility to confront it.”

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TIM MATSUI CONTACT INFO

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