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