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. The frequently middle-aged women who work in parlors with names like Orchids of Asia and Rainbow Spa are often struggling to pay off high debts to family members, loan sharks, labor traffickers and lawyers who help them file phony asylum claims.
Asian Women Massage Photos and Premium High Res Pictures - Getty Images
According to the nonprofit anti-trafficking organization Polaris Project, there were more than 9, illicit massage parlors in the United States in , mostly staffed by Chinese women, aged , with at least one child in China. Their struggle is often one for family and dignity. The building that houses Queens Criminal Court, like the city of New York itself, is usually filled with a mixture of men and women of all ages and races. The Chinese women looked plain. They had no makeup. Half of them were over