Once again the subject of “massage parlors” that offer sexual services is making headlines. Social media, late night TV and general conversations joke about “happy endings”, however there is nothing happy about it.
These establishments are basically brothels populated by sex slaves and have zero to do with the legitimate massage therapy industry and everything to do with the black market human trafficking industry.
In human trafficking, human beings are bartered, bought, sold, branded, and smuggled to be used as slaves. It’s a $150 billion business for organized crime rings and terrorists. It’s a national crisis—and it’s growing. There are an estimated 20.9 million victims of human slavery worldwide, with 1.5 million in North America.
TED talk speaker, Tony Talbott, made an incredibly disturbing summation about sex trafficking: “It’s all about the money. Human trafficking is insanely profitable. If you really think about it, you can sell a kilo of Heroin once; you can sell a 13-year-old girl 20 times a night, 365 days a year.”
According to a report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the breakdown of human trafficking victims are; 51% women, 21% men and 28% are children (20% girls & 8% boys).
Those cheap $29 strip mall foot massage establishments may also be a front for human trafficking.
In Illinois legitimate massage providers must attend an accredited school which offers a curriculum that has minimum of 600 educational hours, pass a licensing exam, get fingerprinted, pass a background check and apply for a license. Once a license has been issued all legitimate therapists must renew their license every 2 years and have completed a minimum of 24 hours of continuing education during that 2 year period.
The people working in the foot massage establishments are NOT licensed massage therapists. They may very well be victims of human trafficking.
These businesses are able to skirt the law by saying they offer reflexology and/or Asian bodywork – neither of which is regulated by the State. This gives the owners the ability to set up shop and continue to deal in human trafficking.
Brothels fronting as massage parlors and strip mall reflexology businesses aren’t the only places slave labor exists in plain sight. Your neighborhood nail salon may be using trafficked labor as well.
Norma Ramos, executive director of the New York-based Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, says there’s often a thin line between sex and labor trafficking : “With nail salons for instance, the labor trafficking of Asian women, you can have those women being labor trafficked to work in those salons during the day, and then pulled into sex trafficking at night.”
>> Only authorities can determine if a location is involved in trafficking. Report all instances where touch services are disguised in any manner. Do not approach or assume, but definitely report. To learn more please visit the Department of Homeland Security Website.
If you’d like to help local victims of trafficking that are in active recovery please consider supporting Refuge for Women Chicago.