Sexual Exploitation of Asian Women

Updated: Jun 9


After the horrific shootings at three different massage parlors in Atlanta on March 16th, eight people died. Of the eight victims, six were Asian women. The suspect, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, stated the reason for his killing rampage was to stop the temptation fueling his sex addiction for Asian Women.


The authorities initially tried to say that this was not a racial hate crime. Anyone familiar with the world of Human Sex Trafficking and Slavery knows that it is a race-related crime.

Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of the non-profit advocacy group National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, had this to say about the Atlanta incident.


“Experts and activists argue it's no coincidence that six of the eight victims were Asian women. And the suspect's remarks, they say, are rooted in a history of misogyny and stereotypes that are all too familiar for Asian American women.


“They're fetishized and hypersexualized. They're seen as docile and submissive. On top of that, they're often working in the service sector and are subject to the same racism that affects Asian Americans more broadly. The way their race intersects with their gender makes Asian and Asian American women uniquely vulnerable to violence,”

Ms. Choimorrow goes on to say, “We cannot ignore the fact that anti-Asian hate and violence disproportionately impacts women. More than 68 percent of reported incidents of anti-Asian harassment and violence have been from women…Now, our community, and particularly women, elders, and workers with low-wage jobs are bearing the brunt of continued vilification.”


This racial attack on Asian Women springs from a complex story involving a global network of Human Sex trafficking. Women are lured to this country with promises of good jobs and freedom. Some are sold to individuals to become slaves in their homes or businesses. These enslaved women take care of the children, do the cleaning and cooking. Most receive no salary or minimum wages and are not free to leave. These women are trapped, their papers confiscated, and their access to communication with family cut off.


There is also a nation-wide network of massages parlors in small towns and large cities across the United States filled with Asian Women who are victims of Human Sex Trafficking. The truth is many women are slaves, working to pay back the debt to their trafficker who brought them to this country.


Initially, they believe this is a legitimate job with a pathway to their dream of success for themselves and their families. Eventually, they understand that patrons are coming for a massage and expecting a "Happy Ending."


The women do not feel they have a choice if they are ever going to pay off their debt. Not every woman who works at a massage parlor is a victim of sex trafficking.


According to the story published in USA Today, the Asian Massage Parlor Business is at the core of perpetuating racism and anti -Asian sentiment.


Catherine Chen is the chief executive officer of Polaris, a national anti-trafficking organization operating the national human tarfficking hotline and working to end sex and labor trafficking and restore freedom to survivors. She is the Author of the USA Today story. Hear what she has to say:


“Indeed, it might be one of the most lucrative strains of racism that exists, for it has given birth to a unique industry in this country — “massage parlors.”

“Those, in turn, have fed a uniquely American form of human trafficking. The very existence of the American concept of "Asian massage parlors'' is rooted in anti-Asian racism, built on the idea that Asian women are exotic, submissive, and interchangeable.”

“These stereotypes have been codified through centuries of racist policies and laws that have made it clear implicitly and sometimes explicitly that people of Asian heritage were different from “real” Americans.”

“Our country contains thousands of illicit massage businesses known for commercial sex. The horrific murders in the Atlanta area highlight the dangers to women who work in these businesses — many of whom face extreme exploitation, abuse, and human trafficking.”

“My question, particularly as we see a growing awareness about racism against Asian Americans, is why are we as a society ignoring the fact that Black, indigenous, women of color and immigrants are exploited for commercial sex by men who think they have a right to our bodies simply because they pay?”

“This mindset that some people exist largely for the pleasure or profit of other people is what makes all human trafficking possible, not just trafficking in illicit massage businesses.”

Sex addiction isn't an excuse.

“In the aftermath of this horrific tragedy, we must not allow law enforcement or the media narrative to dismiss these crimes as simply a "sexual addiction" gone awry. The women targeted by the killer were mothers, daughters, wives, aunties, and sisters. Their lives mattered, and their stories matter.


To truly begin to dismantle the racial, gender, and economic inequity that enables sex and labor trafficking to flourish in America, we must start by understanding how human trafficking truly works, addressing the root causes of economic insecurity in our communities, and holding accountable the businesses and buyers who exploit women through the commercial sex trade.”

To read the story in its entirety, go to USA Today Atlanta Spa Shootings.

For More information on the work of Catherine Chen and the Polaris Project, visit their WebsitePolasisproject.org or Follow on Twitter: @Polaris_Project


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