According to Mercury News, police charged two women, ages 27 and 48, for prostitution at a illicit massage business in Phoenixville. The arrests were made following a weeks-long investigation during which undercover detectives were allegedly offered sexual services on multiple occasions for cash.
The Phoenixville Police Department executed a search warrant for Tai Chi Gifts & Health Center and proceeded to arrest the two women, employees of the business, during the search. The women were each charged with misdemeanor counts of prostitution and are currently in Chester County Prison after failing to post bail. The police also seized items found at the illicit massage business including a large amount of money, personal computers, cell phones, and condoms.
According to research executed by the Polaris Project, trafficking that occurs in illicit massage businesses is the second most prevalent source of human trafficking after escort services. The victims of trafficking at these illicit massage businesses are usually foreign nationals from China or South Korea, speak little to no English, and are under extreme financial pressure. Many women are lured into the business by ads that misrepresent the actual requirements of the job. The female “employees” are often threatened with deportation or public shame if they try to quit. Women in the illicit massage business network are victims of sex and labor trafficking, with many women forced to work excessive hours with little to no pay.
While the CSE Institute is encouraged by Phoenixville Police for recovering several women from the commercial sex industry, the CSE Institute encourages law enforcement officials and members of the county judicial system to recognize these women as victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The CSE Institute believes those who sell sex, who have traditionally been the target of law enforcement efforts, should be offered social services that address the root causes of commercial sexual exploitation – poverty, trauma, lack of resources, and addiction – to name a few. We also encourage law enforcement and all those involved to provide these victims with the services and exit strategies they need. The CSE Institute stands firm that those who buy sex drive the market for commercial sex, thereby encouraging human trafficking and other forms of sexual exploitation. Because of this, it is imperative authorities focus their investigative and prosecutorial resources by targeting the demand for commercial sex. The truly culpable parties here are the persons who choose to use their disposable income to engage in otherwise unwanted sex acts with prostituted persons. The criminal culpability should always be on sex buyers, as their actions not only indirectly drive the market for human trafficking, but directly contribute to the trauma of the person they are buying for sex.