A recently passed Florida sex trafficking law aims to combat exploitation at hotels and spas throughout the state
The legislation, which was signed by Florida’s governor in June, requires all hotel and spa staff to receive training on the signs of sex trafficking. Law enforcement officers are also now required to take a four-hour course on investigating the crime.
To reduce demand for commercial sex, a public registry will be established to track those convicted of soliciting prostitution. Florida will also dedicate $250,000 to fund a new non-profit organization dedicated to tracking sex traffickers and caring for their victims.
The Florida sex trafficking law specifically targets day spas, such as the Orchids of Asia massage parlor where New England Patriots owner Robert Craft was arrested earlier this year, by requiring they report the names of all managers to the state. The legislation also makes it more difficult to reopen a massage business under a new name and license after a prostitution raid.
Sex trafficking involves the use of threats, manipulation, debt bondage, or other coercive means to force someone to engage in commercial sex acts against their will. Under federal law, any minor younger than 18 who engages in commercial sex is considered a trafficking victim, even if their participation was consensual.
Hotels and motels are especially attractive to sex traffickers because they allow both pimps and customers to maintain a significant level of anonymity and privacy. Unfortunately, many hotel employees either fail to recognize or ignore the obvious signs of sex trafficking. According to a growing number of sex trafficking lawsuits, some hotel staff have even allowed pimps to operate on the premises for a cut of the profits.
The Polaris Project estimates that more than 9,100 illicit massage parlors across the United States engage in sex trafficking. These businesses are often part of organized criminal networks with revenues of roughly $2.5 billion per year.
In many cases, the women trafficked through massage parlors and day spas are recently arrived from China or South Korea, speak little or no English, and are under extreme financial pressure. They were usually recruited through advertising that misrepresented their pay and the sexual nature of their job. They are threatened with arrest, deportation, or shame to their families if they quit.