Illicit Massage Business

Human Trafficking in Illicit Massage Businesses

Resource — January 1, 2018
By mapping and cross-referencing numerous publicly available datasets, Polaris found more than 9,000 illicit massage businesses operating in America.

Systemic Change Matrix: Disrupting and Preventing Human Trafficking

Resource — May 31, 2018
This matrix depicts the 25 major types of human trafficking in the United States, cross-referenced with eight highlighted systems and industries.

Is Your Local News Protecting Massage Parlor Trafficking Victims?

Blog Post — October 16, 2018

Do you remember the last time you saw a story in your local news about illicit activities at a massage parlor? What you might not have realized is that many of the women in the photos are actually human trafficking victims. Instead of being protected like other victims of crime, they are being exposed and publicly shamed.

Netflix’s Ozark, Money Laundering, and Massage Parlor Trafficking

Blog Post — July 11, 2018

If you’re a fan of the Netflix series Ozark, you’re probably already very familiar with the dangerous art of money laundering. 

Human trafficking in Massage Parlors: A Deeply Manipulated Sense of “Choice”

Blog Post — June 1, 2018

When was the last time you heard someone joke about a “happy ending” to a massage? Or walked past a massage business that seemed unusually unwelcoming — with covered windows, a locked door with a buzzer on it, maybe an “entrance around back” sign?

Is There Massage Parlor Trafficking in my Community?

Blog Post — May 22, 2018

Human trafficking in massage parlors is the second most common type of trafficking reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. This is not surprising, given how ubiquitous these venues are. According to our recently published research, there are more than 9,000 illicit massage businesses (IMBs) — fronts for selling commercial sex — spread across every state in the United States.

Hidden in Plain Sight: How Corporate Secrecy Facilitates Human Trafficking in Illicit Massage Parlors

Resource — April 1, 2018
Illicit massage businesses have been ubiquitous in the American landscape for decades. Today, new research finds an estimated 9,000-plus of these businesses are operating in every state in the country.

The Typology of Modern Slavery: Defining Sex and Labor Trafficking in the United States

Resource — March 1, 2017
From sex trafficking to labor trafficking, the ways humans are exploited differ greatly. Each type has unique strategies for recruiting and controlling victims and concealing the crime.

Behind the Scenes of an Illicit Massage Business Investigation

Blog Post — October 26, 2016

Law enforcement, service providers, and policymakers came together to end sex trafficking at six illicit massage businesses in Indianapolis.

Dear Hollywood: Put an End to “Happy Endings”

Blog Post — August 17, 2016

Pop culture tropes about "happy endings" in massage parlors are harmful—and they couldn't be further from the truth.

Debt vs. Debt-Bondage: What’s the Difference?

Blog Post — March 1, 2016

What does debt mean to a victim of human trafficking? Often, it's an insidious means of control used to keep them trapped.

Challenging the Reality of Human Trafficking in Illicit Massage Businesses

Blog Post — December 21, 2015

Illicit massage businesses operate as if they were legitimate massage or bodywork establishments. In reality, they are often a source of human trafficking.

Need help? Polaris operates the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline.