As I mentioned last month, human trafficking is a global crisis that victimizes over 20 million people worldwide, over half of which are women and young girls. As it stands, between 100,000 and 300,000 children are at risk to enter human trafficking each year. And it’s not just something that happens in impoverished countries like Thailand and India—it’s happening right here in Kansas City, in even our most secure suburban neighborhoods, and all across the United States.
The Statistics of Human Trafficking
The sheer amount of human trafficking victims is horrifying enough. But the reality of how human trafficking happens and how it impacts both young women and our communities is shocking and appalling. For example:
- Girls are forced into human trafficking as young as 13 and 14 years old
- Over half are runaways or homeless youth with no strong support network
- They are often groomed by an older male who learns all about their lives and then exploits them
- Human trafficking is a $32 billion dollar industry, the #2 moneymaker for organized crime, second only to drug trafficking.
- As of 2013, Kansas City ranks #2 in the country in the percentage of men that respond to sex ads
- 106,624 Kansas City area men respond to commercial sex ads every day
Now, as a licensed massage therapist, I’ve been aware for some time how human trafficking networks will operate under the guise of “massage parlors”. Thankfully, the existence of these “erotic massage parlors” has decreased significantly in the past couple of years in Kansas City.
But it’s been reported that nearly 5,000 erotic massage parlors exist in the US…and they’re all connected across a vast network of similar massage parlors. These women are most likely undocumented migrants from Asia who have been forcibly coerced, either by fraud or blackmail, into this trade.
Again, while the number of erotic massage parlors has drastically decreased in Kansas City over the past couple of years, it is still a major issue in other cities.
Support Licensed Massage Therapists
Many of us in the massage therapy profession have been supporting a movement to establish state licensing in Kansas, one of very few states that does not have this already. Without state licensing, our profession becomes more open to fake massage businesses in our neighborhoods. But requiring and enforcing licensing for massage therapy practices, we can drastically reduce the amount of fake massage parlors from even coming into existence.
State licensing also helps massage therapists to eradicate the stigma associated with massage therapy. Many people do not realize that professional massage therapists have studied at a reputable school, have had our knowledge tested with a licensing exam, and are required to complete continuing education every year. We do not just decide to be a massage therapist one day and hang up a sign. Like any profession, it requires study and skill.
Massage therapists who live in states that do not require state licensing must band together to lobby our state governments to have higher standards for our profession and help stamp out the dark stain of human trafficking for good.