One of the pieces that needs to be in place to start untangling massage therapy from prostitution is the process of working with local law enforcement agencies to be able to report sexual harassment of massage therapists and to also report brothels disguised as massage businesses. Most states have laws that say the words massage, massage therapist, can only be used by a licensed massage therapist, yet many illicit businesses hide behind the words. There is a big disconnect between getting the laws enforced and shutting these places down that needs attention. Your State Board of Massage should be looking into cases, yet boards only oversee those who actually have a license. They will send the other cases to law enforcement, yet nothing seems to happen.
Connect with your local law enforcement agency on Facebook or other social media sites just to learn more about them. Look at the things they are dealing with in your area. Many are also reaching out to their communities and having events for the public to come and meet them over coffee or creating community watch groups. Get to know them first.
Call your local law enforcement agency – local police department or sheriff. Ask to speak to whoever handles human trafficking in your area/city. Explain the problem to them.
Tell them that massage therapists or you are routinely contacted by people looking to buy sex and explain how clients may try to ask for sexual services. It is sexual harassment. Explain the licensing process in your state and explain your education, training and that Massage is Therapy – not sex work. In most states there are laws that say only a licensed massage therapist can call themselves a massage therapists or use the words massage. You can find the laws in your state in the list at the bottom of this page.
Ask to find out their order of operations and what would the process look like for a massage therapist to be able to call with complaints of sexual harassment and to report the brothels.
Ask them what is a standard protocol that we can replicate that helps you help us without getting in the way. What kinds of information is required to become actionable and see if it would be possible for them to file field reports for those with out enough to act on yet. Find out what unit the crimes would go to like internet and sex crimes division.
They often are not able to do much at first and maybe ever, but it is important to start the process. Don’t gripe about them not being able to do anything. Thank them for listening and tell them what you understand the situation to be for that case. Ask other massage therapists in your area to get involved and ask them to do the same thing to connect with law enforcement.
By partnering with your law enforcement we are making it so these businesses are unprofitable in your area. With a network of colleagues united against buyers and making a stand for professionalism we are simultaneously training our community to respect not just the profession but the healthcare advocates who serve in it.
Let your clients know that you are creating relationships with law enforcement in your area to help start stopping these kinds of businesses. Write up a page on your website that explains the laws for becoming a massage therapist and who can use the words massage/massage therapist according to the law in your state.
Last Year the Network Team (https://www.thenetworkteam.org/) started a program to go after the landlords who rent to these places. The plan is to send letters to the landlords telling them they are renting to an illicit business and if the landlord does not evict them, there will be legal consequenses for the landlords. This will only work if every city does this as they just move on to the next city run their businesses. You can tell your local law enforcement agency to contact them to get lists of possible offenders and work with the Network Team to disrupt these businesses.
This is how we play our part. When we know better we will do it. Until then this is how we start.
See also: MASSAGE THERAPISTS: GET TO KNOW LAW ENFORCEMENT WHERE YOU LIVE Sandy Fritz on Massage Magazine
See the story on her Facebook Post of how her calls to the local law enforcement agency did shut down a suspicious business.
Find Your State and use the resources there to inform law enforcement about the practice of massage. (I am working to add easy to share graphics for each state.)