By Tamarra Kemsley and Brad Hamilton. Claire knows this well. On a sunny fall morning, she took the train from her home on Long Island to a storefront in Chelsea, where the windows were taped over with yellowing paper. Inside, it was as dark as a movie theater, the paper and heavy curtains blotting out any sunshine. The smell of sweat rose from the carpet. Soon the place would fill with customers, so Claire changed into a strappy zebra-print dress and steeled herself with a smile for the job of giving massages, and occasionally more, to a parade of men, something she does for 80 hours a week.
Inside the $1 billion business of erotic massage parlors
Long Island Body Rubs, Rub Maps in New York
She was 49, a recent immigrant and deeply in debt to a loan shark back home in China when she answered an employment ad three years ago that promised thousands of dollars a month, but offered no job description. She realized too late that she had been tricked into working at a massage parlor in Flushing, Queens, where besides kneading backs, she was expected to sexually service up to a dozen men a day. In strip malls across the country, neon signs and brightly colored placards promise hot stones, acupuncture and shiatsu with photos of women or couples receiving relaxing shoulder rubs. But a traditionally Asian form of therapeutic relaxation with deep roots in big-city Chinatowns has spun off a different kind of massage parlor that has little to do with traditional remedies.
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Long Island has at least 51 illicit massage parlors that possibly operate as fronts for sex and other forms of human trafficking, according to a new report by Polaris, a non-profit group based in Washington, D. These traffickers likely engage in prostitution and other illegal activities at the expense of human suffering. The conclusion was made by Polaris, which tracked what it considers "modern-day slavery" in a page report on sex and labor trafficking in illicit massage businesses.
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