Illicit massage, health, and beauty businesses present a facade of legitimate spa services, concealing that their primary business is the sex and labor trafficking of women trapped in these businesses.



Hotels are common locations for trafficking to occur. Traffickers will deliver victims directly to a buyer’s hotel room, or potential buyers cycle in and out of a hotel room where the trafficker has confined the victim for extended days.



Sex trafficking can occur within organized residential brothels run by a network of coordinated traffickers or within private households used more informally for commercial sex.



Escort services is a broad term used widely in the commercial sex trade, referring to commercial sex acts that primarily occur at a temporary indoor location.



Personal sexual servitude can occur when a woman or girl is permanently sold, often by her family to settle a drug debt, to an individual buyer for the explicit purpose of engaging in periodic sex acts over a long period of time.


Bars, Strip Clubs, & Cantinas

Human trafficking of this type fronts as legitimate bars, restaurants, or clubs selling food and alcohol while exploiting victims for both sex and labor behind the scenes.



Helen is a 37-year-old woman who was born in a rural community in China. At the age of 6, she dreamed of owning her own beauty business. Helen met her husband at the age of 17, and they had four children, all boys. She left school to work for her aunt in her bakery, although her pay was minimal as most of what she earned went right back into the business. Nine years after the birth of her last son, her husband was traveling frequently and told her that they were in “financial stress.” Helen felt tremendous pressure to do something.

Helen’s parents and extended family lived in her small community, and so she took out a small travel loan and left her children with her parents to travel to the United States. Helen had never traveled outside of her community, but she had heard from several other community members of younger women traveling to NYC and working with success in the beauty industry, her dream.

After arriving at JFK airport, she traveled to a local family hostel in Chinatown, Flushing. There, she met Mr. Chen, who told her about a job with his wife that required no experience. He oriented her to the community, explaining he would reach out to her for her first day of work. Mr. Chen said he would drive her to work where she would make $300 per hour providing massage.

Helen didn’t know many people yet in NYC but was told Mr. Chen was a friend from her community back home. She owed her family money already for her travel; with the family debt and financial support that her husband needed, Helen figured her debt at this point was about $75,000. She was determined to pay off this debt ASAP.

Later that week, Helen received a message from Mr. Chen letting her know he would pick her up in one hour. Helen found the car outside that he described, but there was only a driver in the vehicle. The driver told her that because Mr. Chen was busy, his wife would be where he was taking her.

Helen was unfamiliar with her surroundings. She couldn’t read any of the English signs as they drove an hour to a hotel in midtown Manhattan. After parking, the driver escorted her to a hotel room on the eighth floor.

There Helen met Mrs. Chen, who greeted her briefly and gave her instructions: “A man will knock on the door, and you will open it and receive his money. The money will be placed on the table by the window. You will please the customer.

Helen thought to herself, “Where is this place, and who is this woman?” She considered leaving but she didn’t know where she was and she didn’t speak any English. She also didn’t have her passport with her. What if she needed help? How would she show people who she is without being able to speak English?

Helen stayed… and later reported, “This was the worst night of my life.”

Two days later, Helen escaped with the help of a compassionate stranger; she went to the police to tell them what had happened to her. After speaking with NYPD’s VICE team, Helen was referred to Restore.

At Restore, Helen graduated from Restore’s Economic Empowerment program and worked with a partner organization to receive her visa. Today, Helen is thriving and en route to pursuing her dream of opening her own beauty salon. She looks to the future with hope and anticipation.