On July 6th, 2018, a raid of an illicit massage spa located in a Caln, Pennsylvania strip mall was completed by local police. The raid was the culmination of more than a year’s worth of work by Caln Police, which began in March of 2017. During the investigation, Caln detectives interviewed several alleged sex buyers who frequented the spa as “customers” and detailed the sexual services they had paid to receive there. One sex buyer claimed that he had been going to “Asian spas” such as this one for 17 years, and to this specific spa for three. The sex buyers claimed to have paid between $60 and $200 at the spa for the “services” they received. At the end of the investigation, law enforcement concluded that this spa was “a house of prostitution, a brothel thinly disguised as a massage spa where men came regularly… to pay to have sex with women.”
Although law enforcement conducting this investigation interviewed and confirmed the identify of several sex buyers that frequented this spa, only the three prostituted women in the spa were arrested during the raid. Furthermore, at the time of the raid officers encountered four men in the spa who were allegedly there to pay for sex: none of whom were reported to have been arrested or had their names listed in the affidavit that was filed. The three women were arrested and charged with promoting prostitution and dealing in proceeds of an illegal act. They were set to appear before the Magisterial District Judge Jeffery Valocchi on October 3rd, 2018.
The CSE Institute applauds the Caln Police Department and Detectives for shutting down this illicit massage parlor. However, we are concerned that the three prostituted women in this case may have been coerced into sexual servitude through force, fraud, and coercion, which would make them victims – not criminals. Furthermore, because several sex-buyers were interviewed and four were literally caught in the act of buying sex at the spa, arresting those who serve as the demand for commercial sex would have been an effective and simple way to implement the Nordic Model in Pennsylvania. The Nordic Model criminalizes those who buy and sell persons for sex, while providing vital social services instead of criminal penalties for those being exploited. Cases such as this illustrate why the CSE institute advocates for the Nordic Model and also serve as startling example of how prostituted persons continue to be criminalized at staggering rates, while those who buy sex are allowed to go free – despite the fact that buying sex is, in fact, a crime.
All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or Villanova University.