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(410) 685-2022
Sexual Assault 4/27/2022

6 Red Flags to Watch for at Massage Parlor or Spa

Signs of Sex Trafficking or Sexual Abuse at Massage Parlors and Spas

Sex trafficking and abuse is a rampant problem in Maryland and throughout the United States. Illicit massage parlors often hide tragic realities of abuse and exploitation. To an unsuspecting consumer, it can be difficult to tell whether a massage parlor or spa is legitimate or if they are operating an illegal sex trade.

At Schlachman, Belsky, Weiner & Davey, P.A. we represent victims of sexual abuse and sex trafficking. Our experienced, compassionate lawyers can help get you the help you need, including compensation to pay for counseling, physical pain, and emotional suffering. 

If you suspect or know that a massage parlor is providing illegal services, contact our office at (410) 685-2022 to speak directly with a lawyer.

6 Signs That a Massage Parlor or Spa Is Engaged in Illicit Activities

There are an estimated 9,000 illicit massage parlors operating in the United States. From the outside, most massage parlors look similar. It can be hard to tell whether it is a front for sex trafficking and whether staff or customers are being mistreated. However, there are certain signs that should serve as “red flags” for employees, customers, and the community. 

The most important thing to remember is that if you see something, say something. Whether you are an employee, patron, or concerned citizen, you can help shed light on the atrocities that occur behind closed doors.

Here are 5 “red flag” signs to look out for: 

   1. Open 24 Hours or Advertises Late Night Services

If the massage parlor or spa is open 24 hours or advertises that it is available “late night,” it could be a sign that the services are not legitimate. In raids conducted by law enforcement across the country, massage parlors that were fronts for prostitution rings or erotic services often had neon signs advertising that they were open late at night.

Men coming and going at all hours of the day is also a sign that the spa may be offering illegal services. Other massage parlors that were later part of criminal investigations also had advertisements in their windows for “special services.”  

   2. Only Accepts Cash

Does the massage parlor or spa only accept cash? A business that operates in cash only is usually problematic. Cash leaves less of a paper trail and can help the company not only avoid taxes, but also fly under the radar of law enforcement. 

Was the masseuse or person performing the service allowed to handle the cash? Women at illicit massage parlors are generally extremely vulnerable, and usually being exploited. If they are not allowed to take payment, it could be an indication that they are being mistreated.

   3. No Intake Paperwork

Other indications may be that they do not require any intake paperwork. Most spas will want to make sure that there are no health concerns before performing any services. Failure to request a brief medical history or other questionnaires is a red flag.

   4. Listed on Erotic Review Sites

After the Atlanta spa shootings, USA Today conducted an in-depth investigation on illicit massage parlors. The shooter claimed that he had chosen the parlors because they “provided an outlet for his addiction to sex.” All 3 of the spas involved in the shootings were listed on the erotic review site Rubmaps.

Look at website reviews to see if they mention that the massage parlor or spa offers: 

  • Erotic services
  • Sexual services
  • Extra services
  • Special services

Also, if you see mention that the parlor is “full service” or it is referred to as a “sex spa,” it may be a brothel or another illegal operation. In far too many cases, these businesses are part of large scale sex trafficking webs that work in conjunction with one another throughout a state or region. 

If you believe that the massage parlor or spa may be offering sexual services, contact our office. If you are in imminent danger, contact the police and one of our sex trafficking lawyers. We will stand by your side during the police investigation, ensuring that law enforcement does not minimize your statement or the abuse that you experienced. 

   5. Doors Are Locked, or Customers Must Be Buzzed In

If customers are standing out front waiting to be buzzed in or if the doors are locked during regular business hours, this should make you pause. 

Most legitimate spas and massage parlors offer inviting, serene lobbies for customers to wait. They may be well-lit with warm lighting or allow ample natural light in through glass windows and doors. Spas with locked doors with customers that frequent late at night may be unlicensed or worse, harboring young women for sexual abuse and exploitation

If you have been sexually mistreated, abused, or are a sex trafficking victim, please contact our office immediately. We can help you understand your rights and hold responsible parties liable for their actions. 

6. The Business Looks Unclean Inside or Out

Law enforcement raids of massage parlors that were confirmed to be engaged in illegal activities had a number of things in common. For instance, many refused services to women or catered mainly to male customers. The inside of the business was usually dark and unkempt. Women wore little to no clothing and there was evidence that many of them were living there.

These questions may help to determine whether there is abuse or mistreatment at the spa:

  • Are the doors and windows covered by signs, obscured, or blacked out?
  • Are the women scantily clothed?
  • Are there signs that the owners or women are living there?
  • Is the business dark or dirty inside?
  • Are there signs clearly stating that no sexual services are offered?

It is never too early to bring up concerns about an illicit massage parlor. If there is commercial sex or prostitution happening, it must be stopped. Many of these businesses are designed to withstand police raids. They are movable and interconnected, with little to no evidence of the actual owners. 

What to Do If You Suspect Sexual Abuse or Mistreatment at a Massage Parlor

If you suspect something is wrong or you have been victimized, contact our office for a free, confidential consultation. We are dedicated to helping those who have been abused and exploited. Our lawyers know the lifetime of devastation that sex trafficking and sexual abuse can cause. Let us help you fight the perpetrators of this egregious offense.

Call our office today at (410) 685-2022 for the honest, dedicated representation you deserve. Too often, women who are forced into sex trafficking or who suffer unthinkable sexual abuse end up facing serious criminal charges. Our lawyers can help make sure that your story does not get diminished or devalued. 

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