Advocating Against People and Criminal Organizations That Disguise Labor and Sex Trafficking As Massage And Spa Businesses 

Any and all unprofessional and unethical activities associated in any way with our profession (whether we like it or not) will impact our profession’s reputation and public good will. These must be addressed by the people whose profession is at risk. 

Impact On Our Profession

Confusion: rather than learn who is legitimate, people stop visiting therapists all together or they continue to visit both legitimate and illegitimate businesses and we risk further confusion.

Increased body fear: heightened sense of anxiety when receiving massage due to insecurity (ie. reports of sexual assaults when receiving massage by professional therapists or assaults by others offering body services such as massage). 

Confused expectations: those that provide services in an unprofessional manner affect us all. 

Skewed economics: The public frequently* seeks spa services from anyone offering the service without verifying professional status, legitimate professionals end up competing with businesses that offer deep discounts who do not pay the people who provide the labor.  (and they can do that because the person giving the massage is a slave and is not paid. 

*Independent research has shown far more activity than the data supplied by current anti-trafficking organizations. To verify yourself, start learning the signs and asking friends, family, people in your community.  

Where are these services or illegal businesses typically found? 

Sex slavery:  Brothels disguised as massage businesses (they can be seedy looking or very nice looking depending on how much they need to hide in plain sight)

Hybrid businesses: illegal massage businesses in shopping centers have additional services they offer a different set of clientele and they advertise for that clientele in different places. For the regular massage they might advertise on Groupon and for the sexual services they might be found on Rubmaps or on Google maps under a different name.

Clubs, ranches, and stand alone buildings. A home or business suite that are members only. 

Hotels, truck stops, apartments, other shops pretending to be another service such as a dental spa  

Labor Trafficking or hybrid Labor and Sex Trafficking: 

Reflexology or other businesses that don’t require establishment licensing: Many foot spas and reflexology businesses offer add on services. Think like the public thinks (they don’t know what we know): an unsuspecting customer often enters the business thinking they are receiving services on their feet and learn they can get chair massage or a body massage too. The customer says “sure, why not” to these low priced add-ons. Additionally, the customer often times doesn’t know all the key bodywork terms like we do. In other words, many people think reflexology is a form of massage of the body and not just touch points to the hands and feet. The people and criminals who operate reflexology businesses, whose intent is to offer services by unregulated and many times unpaid individuals, depend on the public’s ignorance so that they stay open in plain sight in shopping centers.

Office complexes with massage businesses just like yours: They just happen to offer the same services delivered by unqualified individuals or sex services disguised as massage service

Home visit services/services at hotels: They just so happen to offer services delivered by unqualified individuals or sex services disguised as massage service.

How to spot a business that is serving illegal spa services to the public? 

Like and follow @Look Before You Book A Massage on Facebook

Join your state’s LBYBAM chapter. 

NC folks: for now that chapter is a group on FB called Establishment Rules Review Alliance. 

Are you from another state? Email us and we’ll let you know about your state chapter. 

Learn and share with your clients and friends and family. You will be surprised how many people use convenient mall and walk in services who had no idea they were in businesses whose labor are supplied by human trafficking. (This author knows of 2 family members, 1 massage therapist, multiple clients, and many community members who have used services and had no idea). 

How to shut down illegal services or locations where illegal services are offered

Recognize that no matter what they look like and no matter whether they dabble in sex slavery or labor slavery, both are bad for the public and for our profession and most importantly for the people whose hope and lives are destroyed when taken in as slaves. 

Recognize that we can work together to help clean up each other’s neighborhoods and risk less by helping from afar

Recognize that nothing will change without the public becoming one of the advocates. When the more of the public chooses legal services, traffickers lose. When the public advocates for us, traffickers lose. Do not take this on yourselves. First the therapists learn and then the public. 

Do not expect the public to care unless you teach them what is at stake for them (injury, STDs, exposure to criminal enterprise, children exposed to criminal enterprise and traffickers lurking in the same shopping center where families and children shop, exposure to diseases from poor hygienic practices). Don’t expect them to understand without multiple exposures. Keep them focused on hybrid and labor trafficking and not just sex trafficking. If we only squelch sex trafficking, the traffickers will just make their money in hybrid spas disguised as regular massage practices.  

Go national and global. Loud, one voice, help each other and learn the strategy behind shut downs. 

Join the movement at @Look Before You Book A Massage. Search on Facebook

How much time do I need to dedicate to helping and advocating? 

Very little time is needed to get started. The movement benefits greatly by your sharing the page in your feeds, by your commenting when you share from the Look page to your personal or business page. 

Other volunteer opportunities are available but more than anything we need masses of people to talk. There’s plenty more you can join in and help with but most importantly don’t hesitate to help where you can because what really need masses of people to talk and share and learn from each other socially. 

How long will it take before we start seeing a change? 

Change only goes as fast as our ability to educate the public and ourselves. Spread the word, recruit allies, help out when and where you can. Learn to help safely. Believe we can make a change. No matter how long “those places” have been open or the ones you didn’t even know existed. This is the first time in history that social media can influence change. Social connectivity helped create the perfect atmosphere for human trafficking to take off but it can also be the perfect way to squelch it. 



Share: encourage your friends and family to join (it’s not just for massage therapists, it’s for public awareness)

Tell friends, family, other massage therapists in other states

Write about it

Share stories, join in the conversation

Join the calls to action

How the public contributes to a thriving human trafficking industry

Welcome to 2018. Human traffickers have moved into your neighborhood. They’ve disguised their motives under the guise that they are just like any other neighborhood business. Sometimes, they look like a restaurant; other times a hotel.
If this is your first introduction to human trafficking, you’re likely going to need some background to be brought fully up to speed. A great place to start is Polaris Project. We also recommend you visit several pages at But briefly, human trafficking is  using humans as if they were a commodity that doesn’t need to be paid to do a service. Like, for example, as if they were robots. A robot doesn’t need to be paid. A little maintenance and there you go. But a robot costs a heck of a lot more to buy and dispose of than a trafficked human. So, if you are a human trafficker, trafficking in humans is big business.  We’re going to talk about the disguise they use in touch services.

Traffickers are composed of organized crime syndicates that buy and sell humans for the purposes of providing services but cutting out one of the “middle men”: the paid human doing the service. You might wonder how this is possible – after all, we have labor laws. Well, labor laws are only as good as the people who run the business, and the capabilities of law enforcement to catch the bad actors. But if you’re a savvy, networked human trafficker, who is capable of subduing humans into unpaid acts and who is capable of knowing a society’s weakness and skirting the law, you can make a lot of money.

Unfortunately, knowing human trafficking exists in your neighborhood isn’t good enough to get you to take action to stop it. You’ve got to first understand how you’re helping them stay around in the first place. Then, we will help you will be aware enough and resourced enough to do something about it. You’ve also got to know why taking a “turn a blind eye” approach is overdue for a takedown. It hasn’t worked and things are getting worse. So let’s tackle it head on.

First steps: The stories we tell ourselves.
A woman finds out the place she’s been getting massage has been shut down for sex trafficking. Well, she thinks to herself, at least that poor girl got a break when I got on her table. At least she didn’t have to perform those sex acts on me. 

A woman is devastated after having her breasts massaged at her local mall’s Relaxation Station. She lets the assault continue because she’s frozen and doesn’t know what else to do, and quite frankly she’s surprised it’s happening. Later, she doesn’t want to report it. She didn’t know the guy’s name who touched her or the owners. She hesitates.

A man buys a gift certificate for his wife to get her first reflexology session. Unknowingly, he bought it from sex traffickers. They’re fine during the service for the wife; she isn’t a candidate for the other services, and so they treat her properly. She tells her friends about it, and they visit it on occasion, too. None of them are exposed to the sex element of the business.

A woman receives a pedicure from a person who is trafficked. The woman thinks the worker is a paid worker. Is he? Human trafficking is proliferating in the nail industry. The public is catching on a little here and there, but don’t think the problem has gotten cleaned up much. There is still much to do.

Traffickers saw how much money they were making off of nail trafficking. What else does the public like to do? Hmmm? Massage! Boom – boom – boom. Reflexology spas, Relaxation stations at the mall, Acupressure at the local shopping center. Put up blue lights and swanky music, dress the salon in trendy relaxation chairs. Well, that’s what it looks like in the front of the spa. In the back room there is a table or a chair in a private room. That’s where the illegal back massages are offered. In the far back are the rooms where illegal sexual servicing is delivered. At Look Before You Book A Massage, we call these places hybrid trafficking parlors. They are hybrid because they make bank off of both labor trafficking (the most extreme form of labor exploitation) and sex trafficking. A one stop shop for any member of the community – the oblivious “I just want a cheap convenient massage” type as well as a stop-by place for a sexual service.

Wait. What? You mean the same place I get my cheap foot rub is the same place those guys go for some extra favors? Ew. Yeah, ew. Now let’s make it even worse for you. It’s the same group that uses children as sexual commodities. Wait. No way. Yes, and let’s explain how. The money you spend on the illegal massage that you were thinking was just a cheap, relaxing, and convenient service goes in the same pocket as those who promote the child trafficking industry. You see, traffickers don’t care what services their commodity provides just so long as they get your tax free dollar. They have no intention to contribute to a positive economy. Their unpaid slave is also not able to contribute financially, let alone mentally; that child or trafficked adult has years of suffering ahead of him or her. That is if the suffering ever does diminish, when and if they ever get out. Alive.

Let’s step things up for you a little more. Weekly our group is hearing about the oblivious public entering these places, lured by cheap prices and swanky decor. They are being assaulted. They call us. What are we supposed to do about it? Oh, they thought we would want to know because we are one of them. You know, you are massage therapists just like them. STOP. THINK. No. They. Are. Not. They aren’t massage therapists, they aren’t masseuses. They are slaves. Their handlers, the human traffickers, aren’t massage therapists. They aren’t massage business owners. They are human traffickers. Please do tell us, but know that we aren’t the people who can do something about the problem. We need the public, when assaulted, to report their assaults to the police. We need the public to know that these fakers are posing as real and they want your money. We need the public to recognize that it is not OK to get a massage from an untrained person  who is groping your breasts or genital area. And by-the-way: when they grope you, they are screening you for your level of interest in their sexual services. They are essentially signalling to the kinky ones, yep you can get sex here. They know the offended ones aren’t going to report them, and if even if you did report the incident, not enough of you are reporting the problem. They know they have the advantage. In so many ways, they are able to stay one step ahead of the law. They swap owners often and move their trafficked people frequently.

Welcome to your world where you shop. Please protect yourselves and protect the economy. We don’t need to support a black market economy. The people forced to work in these places are often immigrants who came to this country with the illusion that they could start a life in a better place but they, too, were duped. Don’t let traffickers win this hand. Immigrants have pathways to legally work in this country and they don’t need to be taken by traffickers. The people who are trafficked are not in a place where they are just working any job they can get until they gain an understanding of the new language. That’s not how trafficking works. We urge you to learn what trafficking really means and the lives and economies it destroys.

We urge you to keep your money out of the pockets of traffickers. Your choices will help people who cannot help themselves, will contribute to the positive economy, and will make the bad players suffer. Don’t get duped by making excuses or buying into false beliefs like “oh those people are just offering cheap massage because they are trying to get ahead” or “guys gotta get their services somewhere.” Dig deeper. Think bigger. Get smart. Stay safe. Look Before You Book A Massage.