Scranton, Pa

Prostitution in Our Own Backyard: Commercial Sexual Exploitation in Wayne, PA

Posted: February 5, 2016

On Thursday, February 4th, 2016, Radnor Township and Pennsylvania State Police arrested two women for soliciting sex from multiple undercover officers at the Body of Zen massage parlor in Wayne, Pennsylvania. The parlor has been shut down, and the two women face prostitution charges.

The police were first encouraged to take a closer look at the massage parlor because of risqué advertisements circulated by the parlor featuring underage women, hearts, and language implying services outside the realm of a simple massage.

Although the women were charged with misdemeanor solicitation, the charges may be upgraded depending on new information that comes forward.

This news story brings to light a number of issues, but the following three are in the forefront:

First, this story forces us to accept that prostitution and sexual exploitation can happen anywhere, even in our own backyards. It is easy to dismiss prostitution as a problem that does not “belong” to us because we live in affluent areas, or that we are above prostitution’s influence due to education or socioeconomic status. This story proves that not only does prostitution exist everywhere, but also that we must own this problem in order to find lasting solutions.

Second, this story highlights the issues of commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Lt. Chris Flanagan of the Radnor Police Department was quoted saying, “If some of these women providing services are being there against their will, we hope we are able to help them as well because they are victims themselves.” This quotation expresses the need for decriminalization and rehabilitation of victims of sex trafficking, rather than shaming and demonization.

Finally, the news story inspires a change in action on the part of the media in order to create the shift mentioned above from the public shaming of sexually exploited women to compassion and empathy for individuals who may be held against their will. It has been reported that the accused women were taken on a “perp walk,” following their arrest, giving the media a chance to capture photographs and videos of the arrest in public. There is little mention of pimps or buyers in the media following the arrest.

Shaming women is not a constructive way to combat commercial sexual exploitation. Rather, law enforcement, the media, and the public should focus on targeting the criminal conduct of buyers while raising awareness of the detriments commercial sex causes for victims and society as a whole.

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