History of Human Trafficking
Internet Sexploitation - How the Web has Brought the Brothel To Your Door
The Internet is a seething maelstrom of ideas: media, images, stories, sites and everything else imaginable. The greatest works of art can be found online, the histories of nations are diligently recorded for study, and yes, you can even order pizza online and have it delivered to your home. Is it so surprising that the Internet also serves as a vehicle through which human beings are sexually exploited? Really, it oughtn't be. Considering that hardly a month goes by without at least ten news stories about internet pedophiles and sexual predators - but that’s not the only sort of sexual exploitation on the web. The Internet is also being used to connect exploiters with the victims of human trafficking in a way that reduces their humanity to little more than a spreadsheet of sexual charged attributes. The Internet has allowed the sexual exploiters of women unfettered access to thousands of potential clients while shielding those consumers from the moral and ethical ramifications of their actions by portraying their exploitation of women as little more than an 'erotic massage'.
In the United States one does not imagine slavery to be a problem anymore. The question of whether or not a person could legally be enslaved in this nation was settled by the Emancipation Proclamation, the binding authority of which was tested during the Civil War. As such, the vast majority of American citizens do not imagine that people are being enslaved among them, that the very basic rights that we, as American citizens, hold as being not only self-evident, but inherent to our very human nature, are being denied within our own borders in undreamt of numbers. "In the US, a conservative estimate is that there are 40,000 people enslaved at any one time and the government estimates that, each year, 14,000 – 17,500 new people are trafficked into the country, the enslaved to force, fraud, or coercion.” (Modern Slavery) Unlike in the past, the vast majority of slaves in the United States do not toil in agricultural fields, but instead are exploited sexually. "Only in industrialized countries, including the US and Western Europe, the sexual exploitation predominate – accounting for seventy-five percent of slavery." (Modern Slavery)
This paper recognizes that there are manifold ways in which these 40,000 people, on estimate, are exploited – many of which has nothing to do with the Internet.
Moreover, it is not the intent of the author to condemn the Internet or those who use it for legitimate purposes. However, it is the author's intent to reveal the Internet's role in facilitating the sexual exploitation of women for profit by way of "crooked massage parlors" that employ trafficked women as prostitutes. Through my research I have uncovered evidence of widespread prostitution of "fresh off the boat massage therapists" that are being marketed through the internet. Specifically my research has uncovered the existence of an internet forum solely devoted to tracking, rating, pricing and sorting these various illegal massage parlors, many of which appear to employing trafficked women or illegal immigrants in prostitution, which according to the Palermo Protocols, would classify their activity as exploitation. The Palermo protocol states:
"Trafficking in persons" shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other means of coercion, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. But exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, or the removal of organs. (Palermo Protocol Page 2)
As such, anyone housing or harboring an illegal immigrant and using said immigrant as a prostitute is according to the Palermo protocols engaging in the trafficking of persons, and is in fact using slave labor. Additionally, it is the assertion of the author that any individual who knowingly or otherwise contracts with a trafficked prostitute is also engaging in human slavery and should be treated as a trafficker.
Perhaps what makes this site seem so abominable to me, is the fact that site encourages its members to "review" the various places of prostitution they've visited through the site, and to describe in explicit detail how they exploited these migrant women. The clients are shameless in their descriptions and discussions of their experience, but it’s that very openness that will allow me to shed some light on how the Internet is facilitating the sexual exploitation of women. Logging onto the site I am presented immediately with a list of "erotic massage parlors" in my surrounding area - well, actually in the area of my ISP's connection, but its close enough to North Brunswick to give me a list of five places, four of which have fairly "positive" reviews. The fact that in North Brunswick alone there are at least four "houses of ill repute" operating clandestinely is disheartening, the fact that the side of the site gives me a list of the surrounding communities that all also potentially house these brothels. So I click the link with the most reviews - "Julie's Spa" on Milltown Rd. The link takes me a listing that has a picture of the building the business is housed in, driving directions and map, and a list of reviews, the most recent of which are still "censored" to everyone but paid and registered members. Below these are comments (more than a month old) that everyone can read. I click on one - "Jeannie" - dated 01/09/2012. I am awash with information - the date of the visit, the price the house collects, whether or not it’s in a private location, et cetera - all provided for me by the user who is reviewing, a "ColonelLingus", before he provides with a short description of the AMP (Asian Massage Parlor in "rubmaps.com slang") "parking lot and rear of building was jammed, there were 40 slots, all taken except one, I used the rear entrance to building, seems pretty discrete, go up a half flight of stairs, turn left and door is second on left, ring bell and wait." After this the woman is rated by the user as if she were a commodity - say a car or a side of beef. This overly sexist and objectifying approach reveals the almost sociopathic mindset of the erotic massage parlor customer - he's not so concerned with the prostitute's humanity as he is with her physical attributes and the services she is willing to offer. The descriptions they use are reminiscent with those given by slave auctioneers, albeit geared not in terms of their ability to bear young or to work in fields or homes, but instead in terms of their sexual desirability and physical appearance. (Please see attached form, labeled example 1.) After this, ColonelLingus proceeds to tell us in graphic and explicit prose exactly how he purchased the use of this young woman's body, how he used it, how much he paid for it, and finally he proceeds to leave a little message of why she just wasn't good enough for a "fifth star".
Rang buzzer and Jeannie answered the door. She's 5' tall, just a little on the thick side for an Asian, which would still be thin for Caucasian, very cute face, smiley and polite, she's wearing a black one piece to dress that barely gets below her ass. Things are looking good... Go in her room, Jeannie asks if I want a shower, "Yes," she collects the house, .6, says get undressed I'll be right back... TS is OK, hot water heaters seems to be a bit thermally challenged that day, but it's all good, right amount of attention paid to the boys and the no-fly zone... She's very sweet. She tells me she's Japanese and I'm even happier now because, quite frankly, the Korean thing can be very much of a type as far as the HE and massage goes. She tells me it's her first day there, whatever, tho' she's definitely FOB with decent English, not unusual for Japanese... Back to room, she starts with a mediocre massage, but so what, that's not why I came here... She says "You want everything?", "Yes, how much?", she says, "Give tip first", me, "You do EVERYTHING, right?" while doing the pole smoking motion, she nods yes... Gave her a $.2... I find she's 26, there’s 3 other girls there, Korean, Chinese and Japanese... That's why I gave 4 Stars cuz she needs to do at least anal, BBBJCIM, BBBJWF, or BBBJCWS to get that 5th Star. But, hey, the fun is in the trying, right? Will definitely go back soon. [For an explanation of the meanings of the abbreviations please see sheet marked form 2.] (Above quotes taken from rubmaps.com)
What we have here is a confession to a commission of several criminal acts - we have the house maintaining a staff of prostitutes, whose immigration statuses we can reasonably surmise are questionable. Moreover, it would not be unreasonable to propose that the massage parlor is also extended room and board to these ladies, giving them a large measure of control on the movements and activities of the prostitutes in question. If so, that would mean that Julie's Spa is a human trafficking organization, specializing in the sexual exploitation of trafficked women. According to article 3, subparagraph B of the Palermo Protocols, even their supposed consent is inadmissible, "The consent of a victim of trafficking of persons to the intended exploitation set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article shall be irrelevant or any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) have been used" The business is making its cut because of the prostitutes who work for it, it is by nature exploiting their prostitution and it is in clear violation of the Palermo Protocols - and unfortunately for us, that isn't applicable in a court of law. Maintaining a house of prostitution and hiring a prostitute however is, and as such, ColonelLingus and Julie's Spa both seem to have committed a crime. But one review alone is not proof positive of wrong doing - there are 15 reviews, most of which are visible to me as a nonmember. Clicking on Powere15's review of "Bonnie" - "Get there and door answered by, I don't wanna just say mamasan and she seemed too young, always picture mamasans as being old. She was very friendly leads me to room. Bonnie comes in, gives me a hug and a kiss, now. Bonnie has a nice body 3/5, face the [same] 3/5... Takes house money, leaves and comes back, asked if I want TS... Removes condom, goes out and comes back wit hot towel, didn't do a good clean up job, I've been to other places that after the HE they really scrub and squeeze and make sure nothing is leaking out, she kind of just wiped the area and that was it, mamasan walks in while she's wiping and we all laugh..." Of course, not all the reviews are so detailed, but others reveal important, indeed, crucial clues about whether or not the nature of the business is fully known to the "mamasan". "When, last night was greeted by the bubbly mamasan. She took me into the private room where I was introduced with a petite woman named Yomi... On the way out, the mamasan (assuming it is Julie...previously described) came to me and said that her girl enjoyed her time with me and told me they have others too... I think she was trying to say come back again... which I will... But might try something different on the menu."
(Yuni - rubmaps)
Of course there is more than just one dirty massage parlor in the area, in nearby Edison there is another such place that has even more review's than Julie's Spa. It’s called Renaissance Spa and is very popular with the rubmaps.com crowd. For instance our old friend ColonelLingus puts it "It's the best place I've been too so far. If I find one better I ain't tellin' NOBODY!!!" Like the reviews of Julie's Spa, these are no less a cavalcade of misogynistic comments about the exploited worker's anatomy and skills, however, unlike Julie's Spa - Renaissance has a working URL. Again, as with Julie's Spa, we can probably be safe in assuming that the women working in the spa are trafficked a conclusion we draw both from the comments surrounding the spa - and from their own claims on their website - "Our international staff of beautiful, skilled attendants are hand- picked and trained in the art of massage to give you the best experience possible so come in, enjoy and relax." (Rennaissance website) The site actually provides almost no information at all, other than to tout the variety of facilities and machines this spa offers. This places it as slightly classier than Julie's Spa, as it has amenities the other cannot offer - this likely explains the slightly higher cost Renaissance over its North Brunswick competitor. Indeed, as the "Colonel" explains - this really is a little more "professionally" run than Julie's - "Very clean, polite. 30, 40 & 60 min rates. 40/$75, 60/$85. Pay house first at window. "Member number" year + day of birth, can request ethnicity of therapist desired at time of pay. Girl at window takes you to room says, if you’re not satisfied with your therapist the first few minutes can request another! That's nice! She tells you to start with a shower, room is clean with towels, shower stall and Jacuzzi tub. Told to 'get comfortable'."(ColonelLingus -Rennaissance Spa). And whereas Julie's Spa was fully an AMP - this place is multi-ethnic, as this description confirms - "Very cute Colombian girl. Very light skin. Broken English, but no problem communicating. Her massage sucked, so I'd suggest skip that. She was fun to talk with." (rubmaps nlk602)
Assuming that at least some of these women are trafficked into the country before ending up at Julie's Spa or Renaissance, how might they have been trafficked? And why would a woman who was smuggled from Japan or China end up in Julie's Spa? Well to begin with one must understand the nature of smuggling and trafficking as they currently exist.
"Many victims of trafficking in persons begin their journey by consenting to be smuggled from one country to another. Because of this, the difference between smuggling and trafficking in persons has been an area of some confusion. Smuggling and trafficking both involve moving human beings for profit, but in smuggling the relationship between migrants and offenders (the smugglers) usually ends on arrival in the destination country. The criminal’s profit is derived from the process of smuggling the migrant alone. In cases of trafficking, some subsequent exploitation for profit, such as coerced labor or sexual exploitation is also involved. Put another way, trafficking in persons is smuggling plus coercion or deception at the beginning of the process and exploitation at the end. (Bales - government document)
Remember that according to the Palermo Protocols, "consent" to being trafficked and exploited is not legally binding, in other words, consenting to being trafficked from Beijing to the USA in exchange for being a sex worker does not mean that the woman in question is not being exploited - more than likely, she still is being exploited - even if she agreed to the trafficking before she left. Moreover, to highlight the role the internet can play in trafficking, consider: "[the trafficker] advertises the organization and recruits new clients through means ranging from the informal (word of mouth) to formal advertisements in the press or internet or the use of travel agencies." (Marrti) Moreover control over those who are trafficked is often ruthlessly enforced, the victims are "starved, deprived of fresh air and sunlight, and beaten regularly. At times they are ordered to inflict pain on one another. Many are shackled and handcuffed to metal bed frames. Males are told that they could be killed; the females are threatened with work in a whorehouse. One thing smugglers always make sure of is that their victims do not dare to inform the authorities or testify against them in court—not even to talk about their experience with other illegals." (Marrti). These women are acquired a number of ways, but for many of them, answering an employment ad over the internet is how it started. "The most common recruiting method for adults throughout the world consists of promises of employment opportunities, often in hotel, catering, and entertainment industries or as domestic servants and nannies." (Bales -gov) Once the women who are going to be trafficked are acquired, things move along rather quickly - "The departure usually takes place quickly (in the Netherlands in nearly 70 percent of investigated cases the departure was within a week after recruitment). The women either are transported directly to the ultimate destination country, and engaged in prostitution upon arrival, or are moved in stages, in which case they often are exploited at each stage." (Bales -gov)
The internet also facilitates the sex trade in other developed nations around the world, such as in South Korea. "One popular method of meeting a Russian woman today is through Internet chat rooms. Disguised as Internet dating venues, these sites pro- vide opportunities for Korean men to find women who meet their specific criteria. Popularly called chog˘onmannam (“conditional meetings”), a man online may express an interest in meeting a Russian woman. Because it is impossible to identify the person on the other end, these cyber operatives use anonymity and invisibility to their advantage." (Joon)
Whereas the internet was providing directions to the brothel in America (as well as rating it and it's girls, and how they performed - and for how much) the South Korean counterpart seeks to cut the massage parlor out altogether - instead Russian women, many of whom have been trafficked into the country, are matched up with individual clients and sent on dates where they exchange sex for money. "Shindonga magazine in 2004 revealed a network operation run by a sex worker manager and two of his aides, each responsible for recruiting Russian sex workers and Korean pa- trons.(Joon) In this particular case, the leader of the operation maintained careful records of all patrons, including their names, phone numbers, outer appearance, and specific likes and dislikes...Between February and June that year, the record book showed a total of 316 instances in which most patrons were in their twenties and thirties." As we are reminded "many human traffickers operate over the internet, using its global reach to find customers and make deals. And with slavery illegal everywhere, all slaveholders have to act in similarly clandestine ways, hiding their slaves and squeezing out their profits."
So with all this evidence against these businesses - prices, names, dates, sometimes even the times of the visit and usually a very detailed rundown of what goes on at these places - what can actually be done about them? One's initial reaction might be to seek a way to get the site shut down; certainly, it would prevent some of these victims from being exploited, but not many. The people who habituate these sites already know where most of these businesses are - though they do look for new ones, ColonelLingus has been known TTOFTT - or To Take One For The Team - and to visit and review previously unviewed massage parlors in the hopes of revealing just how "erotic" their massages can be. However, shutting down the site will not stop their actions - instead it might be more advantageous to leave the site up. Leaving the site up allows for one to undertake what Dr. Bales describes as the pro-active option:
The pro-active option in the context of human trafficking means the investigation, arrest, and successful prosecution of traffickers without having to rely upon the cooperation and testimony of the victims. By using a combination of intelligence, human and technical surveillance, undercover deployments, and standard investigative techniques, investigators can identify the traffickers and prosecute them for the offenses that are most appropriate to the circumstances of the case. The use of this option is simply an acknowledgement on the part of law enforcement agencies of the real and often insuperable difficulties confronting the victims of trafficking crimes who may wish to testify against their exploiters but who are prevented from doing so for fear of reprisals against them or their loved ones. (Bales - Gov)
In other words, the pro-active response is to acquire enough evidence that witness testimony, unreliable in the best of times, becomes superfluous. But for now, how can this old fashioned police work be accomplished? Well first we can take the information I already have and use that as probable cause to begin a two-pronged investigation. The former is of course, the traditional undercover investigation, though this should be handled not as an attempt to arrest a few prostitutes, but rather to clue in specially trained investigators whether or not they are victims of human trafficking. This requires a measure of special training to be conducted among officers but this training is well worth the effort. "What this means in terms of law enforcement is that, provided an investigator knows where to look, the exploitative work or prostitution that is the basic foundation of the crime, can always be identified and located – and if you can locate the victim you can locate the traffickers."
The second prong in this sort of investigation would be a financial investigation, for "The crime itself is all about money – the initial investment to create the infrastructure and deliver the personnel to provide the prostitution; the ongoing management of the proceeds of the prostitution and, finally, the laundering and movement of the profits." (Bales -Gov) Moreover the financial investigation traditionally creates numerous leads as well as allowing police departments to send a very visceral message to the traffickers.
The second benefit is that the ability of law enforcement agencies to identify, investigate, sequestrate, and confiscate the assets derived from trafficking sends a powerful symbolic message to the criminals. This is particularly important in the current climate where trafficking for sexual exploitation is perceived as a “high profit – low risk” crime and where traffickers may regard the prison sentences handed down for this crime as simply a “business risk.” The situation is immediately transformed once the successful financial investigation means that the equation reads – “term of imprisonment – release – no profits – all confiscated.”
In addition to pro-active investigative matters against the parlors that have been reviewed on the site, there is also the possibility of forming a crackdown on human trafficking in this country. In the UK there was a program known as Pentameter 2 that was a nationwide shutdown of as many traffickers as could be found. "Police forces throughout the UK were focused on rescuing and protecting victims trafficked to the UK for the purpose of sexual exploitation and on bringing to justice the perpetrators. Of the 822 premises that were visited, 157 were massage parlours and saunas and 582 residential properties, evidencing the covert nature of the crime. The majority of victims recovered originated from China, South East Asia and Eastern Europe.” (pentameter) A US based program could operate along similar lines, involving precincts nationwide, each doing their best to root out the victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
So in conclusion the internet has is a tool that aids traffickers as a place to find customers, to advertise their "goods" and as a place to find victims. Moreover the freedom of the internet has allowed those who take advantage of the victims of sexual exploitation a place to compare notes, to rate their favorite dens of exploitation and to find new haunts and new victims to play with. However just as this freedom has given them the opportunity to sexually exploit women with unparalleled ease, its inherent lack of safeguards has given us an opportunity to track and shut down these places as they pop up. Also, it is the author's contention that all the exploiters - both the traffickers and the customers, be held as equally criminal, equally guilty, for the sexual exploitation of the trafficked.
Bales, Kevin, Zoe Trodd, and Alex Kent Williamson. Modern Slavery: The Secret World of 27 Million People. Oneworld Publications, 2009, Oxford.
Bales, Kevin and Steven Lize. "Trafficking in Persons in the United States" Document #: 211980, November 2005.
http://www.bestmassagenj.com - Rennaissance Spa.
Lehti, Marrti and Kauko Aromaa. "Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation", Crime and Justice, Vol. 34, No 1, 2006, pages 133-227, The University of Chicago Press.
Kim, Joon K. and May Fu. "International Women in South Korea's Sex Industry: A New Commodity Frontier." Asian Survey, Vol. 48, No. 3 (May/June 2008), pages 492- 513. University of California Press.
Palermo Protocol. "Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime" 11/15/2000.
http://www.rubmaps.com - Listings for Julie's Spa and Rennaissance Spa by: ColonelLingus, Powere15, SFPD9015, Nlk602, Aleighus,
http://www.policeoracle.com/news/Pentameter-Facts-and-Figures_16691.html - 07/03/08.
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- Human Trafficking Sex Trafficking Sex Industry Sexual Exploitation Prostitution Massage Parlors Internet Web Door Brothel