2 Major Industries that Fuel Human Trafficking in PA
By: Ben Byler
Last year, the Human Trafficking Hotline released statistics disclosing the top industries fueling sex trafficking. Here are two major industries in Pennsylvania that often go unnoticed, yet encourage the crime.
Illicit Massage/Spa Businesses
Every time I drive to college, I pass a run-down house with a bright blue neon light that reads: “Massage 24/7.” It makes me sick.
No one needs a “massage” at two in the morning.
Yet these businesses set up shop in plain sight while coercing women to perform sexual activities behind the scenes. Generally, the women involved are not U.S. citizens, but rather undocumented immigrants. Pimps will often use this illegal status to control victims and create immigration debt or impose outrageous smuggling fees, forcing victims to stay until they can pay it off.
Among the facilitators of this trafficking are transporters who “move women from location to location, across state lines, on a regular basis,” according to the Human Trafficking Hotline.
In 2012, three adults were charged with “prostitution” at a massage parlor in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. According to the news report, though, none of the women knew who the owner of the business was and were vastly underpaid (one claimed to only be paid in tips, while another said they received $10 per massage). Additionally, one of the employees who had been there for a month reported that girls “come and go every three weeks.” Clearly, something was off with this “business.”
The Trucking Industry
While the trucking industry does not intrinsically fuel human trafficking, traffickers often take advantage of remote truck stops, lonely drivers, and runaway youth to generate profit. Pimps will bring the girls to overnight parking lots, where the girls are expected to walk around and find customers. Just as bus stops and train stations are hot-spots to pick up runaway youth, teens often find themselves at truck stops looking to hitch a ride out of town, but instead get picked up by a trafficker.
Pennsylvania’s extensive city-connecting highways also draw traffickers’ attention and provide many avenues (literally) for transporting victims from city to city. This makes it harder to track victims’ whereabouts and crack down on traffickers.
Thankfully, organizations like Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) exist to combat slavery in the trucking industry. Since they were officially founded in 2011, TAT has educated 680,153 drivers on the issue. As a result, it has generated 2,250 trucker calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Of the 612 cases the calls generated, 1,133 victims were identified. Simply raising awareness and sharing knowledge about the issue has gone a long way in changing survivors’ lives.
Just as educating those in industries like trucking has made a difference in the identification and rescue of victims, you can help as well! The first step to prevention is education, awareness, and understanding. Greenlight Operation offers age appropriate education and trainings at schools, churches, clubs, events, or other community gatherings. If you would like to schedule a speaking engagement or training event please go to https://www.greenlightoperation.org/education-awareness.
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