A Message from the Executive Director of the IHTI

There is an intersection between sex and labor trafficking. As an example, minors who are sold to Buyers, are also forced to participate in online pornography.

This month’s news cycle shined a light on the realities of Illegal Massage Parlors. We see them in strip malls and stand-alone buildings throughout every community, and their illegal core business is hidden in plain view.   According to the Polaris Project, there are over 9,000 Illegal Massage Parlors in the United States, generating  $2.5b in revenue.

There are several differentiating factors between health massage professionals, and  Illegal Massage Parlors (IMP).  IMP offer massages far below the market rate of legitimate massage therapists.  IMPs also offer sexual acts as part of its menu of services.

How do you spot an IMP?  They are often a locked door at the entrance, as well as, a secondary entrance around the back or the side for their frequent customers; the workers are from other countries with limited English speaking skills.   IMPs are operated by a criminal network of owners, who exploit their workers with low wages, crowded living conditions, and little freedom to come and go as they please.

IMP’s are a public health and public safety concern wherever they exist.  If there is an IMP in your community, other organized criminal activities are taking place.  There are two things citizen groups may do:

  • At your next neighborhood meeting, as a group of concerned citizens, ask your local police how do they monitor IMPs and how everyday citizens may support their policing efforts?
  • Contact the Secretary of State office and ask how they regulate Massage Parlors?  It was a Florida state Inspector, during a routine visit, who discovered the evidence of human trafficking activities.

By only focusing on one aspect of human trafficking, we miss other activities to occur around us, hidden in plain view

Deborah Richardson, Executive Director