Before I get started, I just wanted to emphasize that this post is not intended to lessen the tragedy of what happened in Atlanta. Instead, my hope is to show the possible double tragedy that may have befallen some of the victims of this mass murder. Human trafficking and sex trafficking are violent endeavors from without and within.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution recently ran an article entitled “Before killing spree, Georgia let an industry that exploits Asian women flourish”. In it, the article goes in depth about how massage parlors have been routinely tolerated in Georgia. To be fair, it’s not just Georgia that does this. I grew up in the Atlantic City area of New Jersey and had a lot of family in Philadelphia. In both areas and in between you’d be hard-pressed not to pass a massage parlor in some of the more rural and suburban areas. If there’s a New Jersey strip mall, there’s a pretty decent chance it contains a massage parlor.
However, getting back to the AJC article, it mentions a certain website whose name I will not share with you because I don’t want them to get any more traffic. It’s a review site where customers of massage parlors can rate and describe their experiences. Think of it as Yelp for sex trafficking. According to the AJC, all three of the massage parlors targeted in the attacks had extensive review histories.
“We jumped right into it after a fleeting massage,” one four-star review says, describing an encounter earlier this month at Aromatherapy with a Korean woman. The post says the customer paid $80 for the massage, plus a $100 tip.
Another user claimed to have had sex with a Latina woman working at Gold Spa in February. The price was $60 to the house, with a $200 tip, the post says. “The massage was very blah, but everything else was just out of this world,” the four-star review says.
All told, there are 108 reviews for Gold Spa, 99 for Aromatherapy Spa and 39 for Young’s Asian Massage.
These are not what I would call legitimate businesses and if prostitution was happening at any of these massage parlors, there’s a good chance that women were being trafficked in one way or another. Again I ask that you imagine being traded around from parlor to parlor in sexual servitude only to have some religious nut job come in and shoot up the place, killing people around you.
To make matters more complicated, the Associated Press have published a report that claims Atlanta police had targeted both Atlanta spas in prostitution investigations. This goes against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ statement that the massage parlors were “legally operating businesses that were not on the authorities’ radar.” While this may have just been an off-handed but uninformed comment by Mayor Bottoms, in my opinion, it shows how often these massage parlors are tolerated by the municipalities they inhabit.
While it may be morbid of me to say this, maybe some good can come out of this tragedy. Maybe now a spotlight will be shone on the vast amount of sex trafficking and violence that takes place in the massage parlor business. However, considering how nothing ever changes with gun control after a mass shooting I won’t hold my breath.