Sex trafficking is a massive, worldwide problem that can take many forms.
One of the most prolific: America’s multibillion-dollar illicit massage industry.
The prominence of illegal parlors and their ties to sex trafficking drew national attention in February with the arrest of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and hundreds of other men who police say solicited sex acts in Florida spas. In March, Martin County Sheriff Will Snyder told USA TODAY that the spas involved had “all the trappings of human trafficking.”
Law enforcement has ramped up its tough-on-trafficking language in recent years, touting raids on illicit spas as proof of crackdowns. Yet, a USA TODAY investigation into recent high-profile raids in Florida found the outcomes don’t match the rhetoric. Only one woman in the raids that saw Kraft arrested faces a charge related to trafficking. And in other cases, USA TODAY found instances where business at sex spas returned to normal within months of police activity.
The exact number of sex trafficking victims forced to work in illicit massage parlors is unknown. But reporting methods and analysis have improved in recent years, and advocates and researchers largely agree that the problem is growing, to as many as 9,000 illicit spas in the U.S. alone.
“These places have really benefited from being underestimated for decades,” said Brad Myles, CEO of Polaris, a nonprofit that operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline. “I think now there are certain communities finally kind of tapping into the reality that they’ve been underestimated and tapping into the enormity of the challenge.”
Here are 13 statistics that help explain the scope of the problem.
1. There are more than 4 million victims of sex trafficking globally
A study from the United Nations’ International Labour Organization estimated 3.8 million adults and 1 million children were victims of forced sexual exploitation in 2016 around the world.
2. 99% are women and girls
The vast majority of sex trafficking victims are women and girls, though men, boys, trans, intersex and nonbinary individuals can be victims as well. The International Labour Organization estimates that 99% of the adults and children forced into sexual exploitation in 2016 are female.
To read the full story by Ryan W. Miller, Niquel Terry Ellis, and Alia E. Dastagir on USA Today: Click Here