Korea Institute of Criminologypublished a research on human trafficking for sexual exploitation between U.S. and South Korea in September, 2009. The research is based on the interview responses from South Korean and Chinese Korean human trafficking victims in the U.S. Interestingly enough, many of the victims return to prostitution at massage parlors in the U.S. even after the traffickers no longer can coerce them into sexual exploitation. The study further elaborates that these women rely on drugs, shopping, and gambling to cope with shame and guilt caused by their prostitution in massage parlors.
Shame and guilt
According to the research study, the trafficking victims work average of 13.5 hours a day. One woman answered that she worked minimum 7 hours one day whereas another woman answered that she once worked 24 hours one day. Two years ago, before the recession hit the U.S. market, these women in massage parlors had 23 customers an average day. Many of these women rely on drugs, shopping, and gambling in order to cope with shame and guilt caused by prostitution at massage parlors. Some victims develop drug addiction after the massage parlor owners first gave them the drugs to cope with guilt and shame. In addition, the scholars argue that the victims' drug addiction only benefits the massage parlor owners because victims' drug addiction makes it that much easier for the owners to control the victims. Therefore, the scholars argue that the victims are only revictimized through such drug abuse.
Some other victims use gambling as an outlet to relieve their stress caused by the prostitution. One woman testified that she was pressured into gambling at first by her colleagues. When she first entered a casino club, she only played with 10 or 20 dollars. But, later on, she was losing between $10,000 and $15000 per night, which amounts to her total earnings for 10 days. Many women who become addicted to gambling end up incurring more debts that they eventually need to pay the debts off through prostitution.
Some women rely on shopping for expensive clothes and luxurious products in order to cope with shame and guilt caused by prostitution. As prostitution at massage parlors bring incomes between 20,000 and 50,000 a month, these women develop habits of spending thousands of dollars at a shopping mall. They buy clothes and underwear, which can cost about a few hundred dollars a piece. According to the research, they find satisfaction by wearing expensive clothes and underwear. Also, they buy expensive products (which cost about thousands of dollars each) for friends and families as a method of coping with stress, shame and guilt caused by prostitution at massage parlors.
Left with no victim assistance programs
Regardless of a great research method, the scholars however fail to recognize the dire needs of victim assistance programs for these women trafficked to massage parlors in the U.S. Instead, they portray these women as willing participants to earn more income after the rescue. Victims of sex trafficking and prostitution like these women are left with scars that need to be treated through multiple steps of counseling for a long time. Without such treatment, they are more than likely to fall back into the massage parlors or brothels all over again. Their language barrier, feelings of isolation as well as low self-esteem lead these victims to believe that prostitution is the only means of survival for them. Some women even mentioned that they would like to open their own massage parlors in the future when they make enough money to do so. Therefore, unless these women are treated properly, the vicious cycle of sex trafficking in massage parlors in the U.S. will never end.