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.



“Renata” was trafficked in a residential brothel by her abusive husband. When she started counseling, her mental health was poor. She was experiencing panic attacks, frequent nightmares, and terrifying flashbacks. She felt “trapped” in her mind and couldn’t be fully present with her young daughter.

Our counselors utilized a psychotherapy treatment called EMDR, which stands for eye movement desensitization reprocessing and is internationally recognized as one of the top interventions for treating trauma. Sessions are intense and require clients to recall painful memories. Renata persevered, coming back for sessions week after week.

After seven months, Renata’s mental health significantly improved and could be considered average for the general public. She stopped having nightmares and panic attacks, sharing “my mind is finally free.”



After “Norma” escaped from her trafficker, things didn’t get better. She didn’t know where or to whom to turn for help. She ended up sleeping on park benches and had to consider returning to her trafficker. A passerby directed her to a church, where a congregant put her in touch with Restore.

After Norma moved into our Safehome, her situation stabilized. She wanted to save up so she could find her own place, so she enrolled in our Economic Empowerment program. Norma also met with our clinical counselors on a weekly basis.

After a year in our Safehome, Norma found her own apartment with the help of her case manager and our flex funding initiative. From the time that we met her to the time she moved out of the Safehome, Norma went from sleeping on a park bench to living independently, working a safe job, and staying far away from her trafficker for good.



May was trafficked by a family friend who had promised to house her while she attended high school in the U.S. Because she couldn’t speak English and didn’t know whom to trust, May stayed with her trafficker until the Department of Homeland Security intervened and brought her to Restore.

May enrolled in our Economic Empowerment program, but it was challenging. When it was time for students to work on their resumes, May was re-traumatized: she had never had any work outside of her trafficking experience. The assistant facilitator, a Restore graduate herself, knew how to help. They focused on a few odd jobs May had when she was younger, the soft skills she possessed, and what she was most excited to learn.

By the end of our program, May was able to celebrate at a graduation party, which coincided with the Lunar New Year, an important holiday in her country of origin. When we gave May a lucky red envelope, she tearfully shared that it was the first luck she had received in years.

Today, May is working with a trusted business partner of our co-op staffing agency, the first and only of its kind in the country. She has been promoted and works 40 hours per week, allowing her to earn nearly $30,000 in annualized income.