To the editor:

In light of recent news of Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s involvement with a massage parlor that allegedly has been connected to a $20 million human trafficking ring linked to China, I believe it is imperative that the two industries are regulated, and most importantly, separated.

In order to advance the professionalism of massage therapists, we need to change our language and laws. For example, using “massage therapist” instead of “masseuse” and “massage clinic” or “practice” instead of “massage parlor.” Changing our language can shift a lot but more needs to be done, and N.H. is taking action legislatively.

Massage therapy is prescribed by many doctors in the U.S. and Europe, and many health insurance companies are now covering these costs along with chiropractors and acupuncturists. There are many well-researched benefits of massage therapy, and we are trained professionals who aid in healing injuries as well as preventing them. Better sleep, lower blood pressure, reduced headaches, soreness and stiffness and reduced stress levels are only a few benefits of this modality.

Unfortunately, it’s all too common that victims of human sex trafficking are forced to work at these parlors disguised as massage therapy day spas. State Attorney of Palm Beach, Fla., Dave Aronberg said, “The larger picture, which we must all confront, is the cold reality that many prostitutes in cases like this are victims, often lured into this country with promises of a better life, only to be forced to live and work in a sweatshop or a brothel, subject to force, fraud or coercion.”

Sex trafficking is modern day slavery and the fields must be separated to protect women involved in each profession. Sex trafficking is a $9 billion industry in the U.S. alone and it lives and breaths in each state. Homeland Security and the Human Trafficking Task force in N.H. is presently investigating at least 30 businesses that were advertising as “massage” or “body work” in Amherst, Bedford, Concord, Derry, Exeter, Goffstown, Hampton, Hudson, Londonderry, Manchester, Merrimack, Plaistow, Claremont, Nashua and Salem.

Legislation is needed. HB 121A is calling for: inspection of massage therapy practices. This will be beneficial to both the therapist and the women caught in the human sex trafficking industry. The reason for this bill is to help locate and combat human trafficking and prostitution. Success will not only depend on improved legislation, but education and awareness within the massage community and licensing agencies and collaboration with law enforcement agencies. I for one am glad our local government is taking this matter seriously and taking action.

Renee Bernier, massage therapist

North Conway

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