Massage therapy license law aims to cut down on sex trafficking

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A new Indiana law could bring an end to those looking to get more than a therapeutic massage.

Massage therapists must now get a license. It’s a law therapist Marhia Ross is excited for because she hopes it cuts out an ugly side to her profession.

“There is nothing worse than having a client come in and thinking that they’re going to get more than a therapeutic massage,” Ross said.

The problem is when parlors use women to go beyond massages. This October, seven central Indiana businesses were raided after officers investigated women performing sexual acts.

The situation is gaining more awareness. The Indiana attorney general’s office said the incidence of human trafficking tips quadrupled over the past two years.

To bring more help, state leaders enacted the licensing law.

“You can’t just be doing sex trafficking,” State Rep. Ron Bacon, a Republican from Chandler, said. “Pulling a woman off the street and throwing her into it and saying she’s going to be a massage therapist without that. This is what we’re trying to fix.”

Not just anyone can get a license — you must be at least 18; go through 500 hours of training from an accredited school and pass a criminal background check, and exam.

Those already practicing who don’t have a license won’t have to stop immediately because the law gives people six months to get their license. Indiana Therapeutic Massage Schools is one of the places where those 500 hours of training can be earned.

That’s where Ross teaches. As for the law, she knows it adds more requirements. “A lot of people are like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to go through all these extra steps, and stuff,'” Ross said.

But the law, she said, is worth it to give her the peace of mind she’s provided to so many others. “That is not what we do,” Ross said. “That’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to actually help people.”

Since the state had a certification process in the past, lawmakers said the licensing agency should be able to handle the changes. It’s not free. In order to apply, you have to pay a $100 fee, and get a renewal every four years.

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