In the article “Monroeville massage parlors under investigation by police” (Oct. 19, TribLIVE) you report on search warrants carried out at several massage parlors. However, your article doesn’t mention that illicit massage parlors, like the ones covered in this story, are often venues for human trafficking.
Illicit massage parlors profit from the sale of trafficked women’s bodies. Many forces may keep women from self-identifying as trafficking victims, such as debt bondage, having their immigration documents confiscated, being forced to live inside the business and being threatened with harm to their families if they speak up. In addition, victims generally know little about how law enforcement works in the U.S. or about their rights.
The press can help by looking in to the ownership of the business and following the money. Many parlors are part of organized crime networks. If officials close one parlor in the network, the victims are often simply transferred to another, possibly in another city or county.
Given this information, it makes a big difference when news organizations include context for their readers to help illuminate the widespread problem of human trafficking in massage parlors. We hope to see your leadership in this space going forward.
The writer is director of the disruption strategies team at Polaris, which operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline.