One of the main organizations who is working to fight the many sex businesses disguising themselves as massage businesses is a non-profit called The Network Team. www.thenetworkteam.org
My research so far shows that this company was previously called the Heyrick Research Group. Heyrick was the company that did the research for the Polaris Project Report on Human Trafficking and the massage profession. Much of that report has been found to be inaccurate. The massage profession just took it at face value and never did a study on it to confirm their findings. The report was taken off of their website after the shootings in the Atlanta Spa in according to Vice.com’s story about it all. The story says it was taken off of the website:
“A spokesperson for Polaris told Motherboard that they removed the page that contained the massage parlor report “in an abundance of caution on the off chance some white supremacist extremist might find a way to twist it into an excuse for violence.” They said that this reflects a “more holistic approach” to the organization’s sex trafficking reduction strategy, “that does not include a focus on the massage industry in particular (although it may wind up as part of the strategy in localities where it is particularly prevalent),” they wrote in an email”https://www.vice.com/en/article/7k9gb9/anti-trafficking-polaris-massage-parlors-atlanta-shooting
The Heyrick Research Group changed their name to the Network Team for some reason and are now continuing to move forward to collect data on the so called illicit massage businesses. Before that, they were also known as Praesidium Partners which I found on archive.org showing a line at the bottom of their page “Praesidium Partners is becoming Heyrick Research in 2020”. The archive.org page says:
“Praesidium Partners was founded by two former Federal Bureau of Investigation special agents who saw the need to build relationships among stakeholders and share information regarding human trafficking in the United States”. The names Robert Houston President and Patricia Houston were listed as founders. “Robert Houston had a 27 year FBI career specializing in counterterrorism and transnational organized crime. Among other positions, he served as the Director of the International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center, in management roles at the CIA Counterterrorism Center, and as an Assistant Professor at National Defense University. He has a MS in National Security Strategy and a JD.”
“Managing Director Patricia Houston focused on counterintelligence and criminal investigation in over 20 years with the FBI. She is a certified undercover agent, and has a degree in international business.”
So the Network Team hosted a get together in Los Angeles in Early January called the Convening. Only people invited were allowed to attend. Attorney Generals from states were invited and so was the Federation of Massage State Boards (Debra Persinger went). They are now hosting a series of webinars starting next week on various topics. There was a previous meeting of the Convening back in 2019 as I found when reading the book The Historical Roots of Human Trafficking: Informing Primary Prevention of Commercialized Violence.
The first thing they need to do though is stop calling it an illicit massage business. IT IS NOT a Massage Business or massage anything. It is a Brothel Disguised as a massage business (BDAMB) or a Sexually Oriented Business (SOB). Just using the word massage on their websites , downloads and webinars has made it look like that the massage profession is involved in these places. While there are some bad apples in the massage profession sexually assaulting clients…well that’s a whole other story. Learn more about how the words influence the public, media, legislators and others. Hands Off Our Name.
The Convening was a gathering of Attorney General’s, members of California Massage Council but did not include any of our professional associations like AMTA, ABMP or AFMTE from my understanding. (Let me know if someone was there representing these groups.) The Federation of Massage State Boards was there and had a display table and may have attended classes but we do not know how much they were involved. They Network Team recently held a series of 6 webinars and I attended all of them to find out more about what they are doing. I have also emailed them only to find out that they are only working with attorney generals and law enforcement agencies at this time. I asked where they get their funding and they said it was private donors. Their 990 forms on guidestar.org show donations of 2.6 million in 2021 and $3 million in 2022. Could the massage profession give another few million to expand the groups working ability?
5 Steps Proposed by The Network to Disrupt Illicit Massage Businesses (CA)
One of the first webinars was on their overall plan for disrupting these businesses. Much of it is based on what CA is doing and has done. The recent numbers count though shows that CA is one of the fastest growing problems.
- Update Massage Ordinances
Example from San Mateo ordinance 5.44 (PDF)
- Update Your Business Application Process
Create a very detailed application process something like the one created for Sunnyvale CA.
- Declaration Process: Create a process where law enforcement can report to the CAMTC who can then suspend their certification.
- Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training . POST Certified Training offered by CAMTC
- Commitment to Inspection – update ordinances, business license applications, declaration process, train and repeat.
Landlord Engagement Program
Another webinar that they held talked about their main method of dealing with these businesses is their Landlord Engagement Program which I attended. The ideas is to go after the landlords who rent to these businesses and get them to stop renting to them. This seemed great at first but now I am concerned as I found old documents from Heyrick Research saying that their first tests of this method just led to them moving to other towns.
The Missouri Attorney General has implemented this in the form of the Hope Initiative.
This isn’t just as simple of engaging landlords but for now it seems the easiest place to start especially since law enforcement across the US is undermanned and overwhelmed. Much more is required to put a stop to this. This whole thing is driven by money—the Johns’ who visit these places. The men in our communities who see women as sex objects. The media who portrays Asian Women as sex objects and the women who get caught up in these schemes just looking for a better life.
Support systems for survivors. The women are severely traumatized. Most do not even think that what is happening to them is a crime and they are just working to provide for their families. They have lost all sense of personal control. It is not only the women, but also their families. They are working to help support their families here and abroad. They have such a long history of Asian discrimination leaves deep wounds in all of us.
City council members, legislators and others to create Ordinances. The massage laws are filled with loopholes that allow this to happen. The states that do have laws are unable to follow through on investigations and arrests just based on unlicensed practice —for some reason that I just have not been able to figure out what the missing connection is. Cities are trying to create their own ordinances burdening massage therapists with having to jump through more hoops after already attending and passing approved massage school programs, background checks and having their licenses on advertising and in their offices. When cities talk of adding more city or state establishment licensing, they are saying that this is the problem of the massage profession when it is not licensed massage therapists who are the problem…it is the sex businesses that need to have ordinances made and enforced.
Law Enforcement. Sheriff and police departments need training in how to respond to these businesses. Starting with unlicensed practice laws that should allow them to shut these places down just because they are using the words massage without being licensed. Business licensing laws are another way to approach the businesses and also public nuisance laws.
Where is the Massage Therapy Profession?
We really don’t know. The Federation of Massage State Boards had a human trafficking task force back in 2018 and provided a report on massage and human trafficking. They also have a toolkit for massage schools as they found that so many schools were fake and also handing out fake massage licenses.
Hands Off Our Name is the one thing we can do right now…today. Follow the local news stories in your area and let the media know that the correct way to talk about these businesses is to use the terms Sexually Oriented Business (SOB) or something else besides Illicit Massage Business.
Start Creating Your own Local Massage Network.
The first step will be reading, researching and learning what is happening in your community. Attend your city council meetings, meet your county representatives, reach out to your local police or sheriff. Ask them to make an inquiry to the Attorney General’s office in your state. The AG’s were all invited to the Convening and many states had representatives attending the Convening to learn about the latest processes and how to set up a network in each area. Some are already starting to work on this. If they have not attended or heard about this, send them to www.thenetworkteam.org and get information.