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.
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?
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.
The laws governing business registration in the United States are enabling illicit massage parlors to flourish in secrecy, shielding traffickers from law enforcement and prosecution, according to a report released by Polaris.
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.