The Atlanta Massage Parlor Shooting Highlights a Fundamental Failure to Keep Spa Workers Safe

Last month, a man walked into three massage parlors in the Atlanta area and shot and killed a total of eight people, six of them Asian women. The suspect, Robert Aaron Long, has confessed and confirmed that the crime was sexually motivated, calling the women “temptations.”

Though Long has been arrested and is currently awaiting trial for the murders, the social attitudes that reportedly motivated his actions remain, continuing to endanger other massage and spa workers.

Working at an Asian-Owned Spa Is Not a Crime

Sadly, much of the discussion surrounding the massage parlor shooting has treated Asian-owned spas and massage parlors as practically synonymous with human trafficking and prostitution. While human trafficking under the guise of the massage business is a genuine and serious problem, the assumption that all Asian masseuses are prostitutes is not only false but dangerous. Would-be buyers of commercial sex who believe this myth often demand sex from Asian masseuses at random, and then become belligerent when refused.

Even more damaging, however, is the frequent implication that the presence of human trafficking at a spa or massage parlor somehow makes all the women who work there criminals. This idea overlooks the simple, crucial fact that sex trafficking victims are victims, not perpetrators, and in turn frames the crimes against these women as unimportant or unavoidable.

Reports vary as to whether the spas targeted in the shooting were in fact facilitating human trafficking or not. Some friends and neighbors have described the businesses as quiet and professional, while others have reported activity that could indeed indicate the presence of sex trafficking.

All of the targeted spas had been the subject of police stings in previous years, but no investigations were ongoing, and none of the shooting victims were suspected of sex-related crimes.

Regardless of whether the shooting victims were also victims of human trafficking or simply ordinary spa workers, the fact remains that they deserve justice.

Police Stings in Georgia’s Spas and Massage Parlors Have a History of Making Matters Worse

Police stings are a common method of combatting human trafficking in Georgia. While that goal is noble, and some operations may be well-intentioned and even turn up some results, they all too often end up hurting the same women they’re theoretically supposed to protect. Police go under cover, sometimes engage in sexual activities with masseuses and spa workers, and then perform mass arrests, mostly on prostitution charges. Meanwhile, the people actually orchestrating and profiting from sex trafficking operations are rarely identified or caught.

Rather than rescuing sex trafficking victims, these kinds of sting operations typically make it even harder for victims to escape, because they learn that they cannot trust law enforcement to protect them if they come forward, and their unearned criminal records often disqualify them from other work or housing.

Survivors of Spa Violence May Have More Options Than They Know

In spite of the harmful stigma that still plagues both sex trafficking victims and Asian spa workers, and the flawed methods of combatting sex trafficking within the criminal justice system, there are ways survivors can fight back.

As we’ve discussed previously on this blog, there are many nonprofit organizations in Georgia that do offer rescue services to human trafficking victims, and under civil law, survivors can also sue anyone who knowingly participates in their victimization. This can include employers who coerce sexual activity or provide unsafe working conditions, websites that guide customers to illegal commercial sex, direct perpetrators of violence, and potentially even police departments that participate in sexual exploitation.

If you lost a loved one to the Atlanta massage parlor shooting, or if you have been subjected to violence, including but not limited to sexual coercion, while working in the massage/spa industry in Atlanta, call The Stoddard Firm to learn about your options in a private, free consultation.

Attorney Matt Stoddard

Atlanta Personal Injury LawyerMatt Stoddard is a professional, hardworking, ethical advocate. He routinely faces some of the nation’s largest companies and some of the world’s largest insurers – opponents who have virtually unlimited resources. In these circumstances, Mr. Stoddard is comfortable. Mr. Stoddard provides his strongest efforts to his clients, and he devotes the firm’s significant financial resources to presenting the strongest case possible on their behalf. Matt understands that his clients must put their trust in him. That trust creates an obligation for Matt to work tirelessly on their behalf, and Matt Stoddard does not take that obligation lightly. [ Attorney Bio ]

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