POWELL, Ohio — At least two cities in Delaware County are considering toughening rules for massage parlors in an effort to combat human trafficking. In the meantime, experts are working to train the community to spot the sex trade and what to do about it.
Three-and-a-half years ago police busted a massage parlor in a shopping plaza near downtown Powell. Two women who were ringleaders were convicted, while dozens of sex workers were rescued. Police discovered the women were Chinese nationals, working against their will.
"They feel there is no other way but to listen and obey what they're being told in these businesses," said Stephen Hrytzik, deputy chief of Powell police.
Now Powell is considering legislation that would require massage parlors to have state-licensed therapists. That is modeled after a similar law in Westerville that city council enacted after busted an Asian massage parlor in February 2018. Delaware is considering a similar law.
Also today, the United Way of Delaware County held a workshop to help citizens understand and spot human trafficking.
A woman who calls herself J. Dakotah said she knows all about the scourge. Dakotah was trafficked for 25 years beginning at age 14 when her family lived on a Native American reservation. Now she is in Central Ohio working with human trafficking survivors and drug addicts. She echoed the sentiment that sex workers are often working against their will.
“They’re not asking to be trafficked, they’re just being taken or put into a position where they’re vulnerable," she said.
The United Way's Brande Urban pointed out that human trafficking can and does happen anywhere. Urban urged anyone who suspects human trafficking to call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.