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It appears three of the four businesses relocated their female employees before authorities had an opportunity to question them or offer them safe haven. Accompanied by a Korean-language interpreter, detectives from the Williston Police Department had an opportunity to question two Harmony Health Spa employees before the spa closed permanently on the weekend of June Donovan would not elaborate on who accompanied the cops or what services were offered.
On June 26, members of the Vermont Human Trafficking Task Force will meet to discuss the response to the Chittenden County spas, as well as the May 7 police raids on two similar establishments in Bennington. Additionally, the Vermont-based nonprofit Give Way to Freedom and the International Institute of New England have just unveiled their own Rapid Response Support System for providing emergency shelter, food, medical care and counseling to suspected trafficking victims within the first 24 to 48 hours of their discovery.
Edith Klimoski, Give Way to Freedoms director, declined to comment on what, if anything, her organization did to reach out to the spa employees. Donovan stresses that most erotic massage parlors have ties to large, out-of-state criminal elements that are beyond the reach of local law enforcement. Are we going to have massage therapists licensed?
In fact, a request that Vermont license its massage therapists, as some states have done, was rejected as recently as Winters specifically addressed the question of whether regulation would prevent criminal sexual activity from occurring under the guise of legitimate massage. At best, licensure has provided a thin curtain for it to hide behind.
What have other communities done? Two municipalities in New Jersey — South Brunswick and Mount Olive — enacted tough local ordinances to stem massage parlor prostitution. Following revelations that five massage parlors were tied to prostitution, human trafficking and money laundering, Mount Olive passed new health codes that require massage parlors to register their employees with the town and undergo criminal background checks.