Last week a local man, Alex Campbell, was sentenced to life in prison for trafficking women in a fake massage establishment in Mt. Prospect, a suburb of Chicago. The success of this federal prosecution is a sign that law enforcement is doing more to focus on pimps, johns and traffickers in Illinois.
So, how can it happen, seemingly in plain sight, that women were being trafficked in the suburbs? The victims were undocumented immigrants with a lack of financial means to support themselves. Campbell’s promise for jobs in massage parlors and shelter made the women believe they would be able to earn a better living, but little did they know that their immigration papers would be seized and they would be forced into prostitution. Based on the victims’ testimonials, the physical, emotional, and psychological abuse inflicted upon them is severe and something that they will have to live with for the rest of their lives.
The successful conviction and sentencing of a trafficker so close to home is a reminder that the demand for paid sex is high in our community. Men in Mt. Prospect and from surrounding areas were buying sex from these trafficked women for months, perhaps years without being held accountable. There are fake massage establishments throughout the Chicago suburbs that continue to act as fronts for the sex trade and, almost certainly, for trafficking.
Everyone has the opportunity to take action against exploitation in fake massage establishments, and some local massage therapists are leading the way. Working with Mindful Marketing and Zen Shiatsu Chicago, CAASE helped develop a toolkit for massage therapists that can help them take action around issues of prostitution and sex trafficking. The toolkit is a helpful source of information for concerned citizens interested in learning more about sexual exploitation.
Learn more about CAASE’s wide range of free online toolkits here.
This post was written by Shobhana Johri Verma, a CAASE volunteer.