Despite Vulnerability of Georgia Spa Workers, Many Targeted for Arrest

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The board that oversees massage therapists in Georgia voted last month to educate its members on human trafficking, publicizing a national report that exposed links between corporate secrecy and sex spas. Yet the massage parlor employees in that state and many others continue to be targeted by law enforcement, reports USA Today. A review of more than two dozen raids over the last 15 years found that those raids resulted in 35 charges of prostitution and masturbation for hire–a charge aimed specifically at massage therapists. In fact, the Atlanta Police Department between 2011 and 2014 conducted nine undercover operations at two of the locations targeted in the recent mass shooting. Georgia is a known hub for commercial sex and sex trafficking. The National Trafficking Hotline ranked Georgia sixth in the country for trafficking reports in 2019. A report co-authored by Bouche and Street Grace, a faith-based organization combating trafficking, estimated that more than 1,000 people visited illicit massage businesses daily in Georgia in 2019, making it a $40 million industry. Experts say following an antiquated playbook does little to protect women often exploited by a billion-dollar industry propelled by a toxic mix of racism, misogyny and fetishization. Arresting low-level female workers, they say, further stigmatizes a population at risk of violence and trafficking.

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