Massage Parlors and Human Trafficking

According to the report Not in Our Name: Massage Therapists Against Sex Trafficking, published by the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation and Not In Our Name!, a group made up of massage therapists against sex trafficking, the culture of massage parlors is conducive to sex trafficking in the United States. “Human traffickers are using the massage industry as a cover and a way for sex trade customers to identify and connect with paid sex opportunities, often times with women who have no other choices,” the report stated.

The study concludes that one of the driving factors behind sex trafficking is the constant demand for it. “Johns,” those who pay for sexual favors, are driving the industry. “This group constitutes the demand for sexual acts from women, men, transgendered individuals and children,” the report stated. “Purchasing sex is often an act of asserting power and control. Buying sex from another person dehumanizes the victim because it puts a price on a person’s self-worth.”

According to the report, in 2008, nearly 67 percent of prostitution-related arrests in Chicago were of prostituted people, 34 percent were of customers, and only 1 percent were of pimps. “This approach fails to address the root cause of prostitution: the demand,” the report said.

The report acknowledged that trafficking may be difficult to see in the open, but there are several tell-tale signs of massage establishments that engage in human trafficking, such as:
  • Suggestive or blatantly sexual advertising.
  • An expired or nonexistent license.
  • Darkened, obstructed, or covered windows.
  • People coming and going at odd times.
  • Mostly male clientele utilizing the establishment.
  • Predominantly Asian women, of diverse ethnicities and nationalities, including Korean, Thai, Chinese, and ethnically Korean-Chinese citizens performing the services.

Learn more at Sam Charles’ Center Square Journal article: Report: Human Trafficking Pervasive in Massage Parlors.


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