The Thai children putting a brave face on the horror of sexual abuse

When photographer Marieke van der Velden was asked by the Dutch charity Down to Zero to do an awareness-raising project on Thai children who had been victims of commercial sexual exploitation, she was uncertain how to proceed. For obvious reasons, her subjects’ faces could not be shown.

In Thailand, Van der Velden was photographing in two shelters – one a drop-in day centre. Some of her subjects were still at risk because, she explains, it is not a simple swap to move from street to shelter: “Some of them may feel they have a better time on the streets.”

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