Massage businesses open in neighboring communities after closing in Cedar Rapids, experts say
The City of Cedar Rapids exercised a new law last month allowing officials to close down two massage businesses where police believe prostitution was happening.
Lillia’s Acupuncture at 3200 16th Avenue SW and Shanghai Massage at 3318 1st Ave. NE were both placarded and closed to anyone. These are just two of more than a dozen that have closed since the massage ordinance went in to place earlier this year.
“While the police officer or investigator was getting a massage, maybe the woman didn’t speak English,” said Teresa Davidson, president of Chains Interrupted. “So the massage therapist would use a hand gesture or motion with their eyes.”
Davidson said those actions aren’t admissible in court which makes enforcement difficult. Her organization has gone into several of the establishments to try and help. She believes many of the workers are being sex trafficked or are sending money back to their families overseas.
“I would go in there with a gift so we have a reason to be there,” she said. “We would tell them we care about them and hope they understand.”
While the ordinance is closing down businesses where police believe prostitution is happening, the businesses aren’t going far.
“We’re pushing them to other communities,” she said.
I don’t think we can arrest our way out of this problem,” said Kaytlin Bailey, with 'Decriminalize Sex Work'. “If the work that you are doing is not criminalized that means you can report abuse to law enforcement.”
Bailey said there wouldn’t be any governmental regulations, but there would need to be rules such as licenses for owners with more than one employee. Taxes would also have to be paid.
“Advertising in a public space wouldn’t be allowed, you can’t put it up on a billboard or fliers, but you can advertise online,” she said.
Bailey said the US should follow New Zealand’s law when it comes to sex workers. Davidson, however, isn’t in favor of decriminalizing prostitution. She said there does need to be a uniform law in the state.
“Cities shouldn’t have to come up with their own ordinances,” she said. “Each city has a different law.”