A recent piece from the Lawrence Journal-World, a Kansas newspaper, revealed a surprising statistic: Kansas is one of only five states in the country that do not regulate massage therapy professionals with background checks. The lack of regulation has caused issue in the state recently, with numerous massage businesses being linked to prostitution and human trafficking, among other crimes.
The issue here is clear. In most states, masseuses are required to meet a number of different criteria in order to be licensed to practice. Required criteria differs somewhat from state to state, but often includes criminal background checks, completion of training or certification programs, and more. Massage therapists traditionally have extensive one-on-one time with their customers, not unlike the time doctors spend with their patients. As a result, background checks are an important step to make sure that massage therapists are safe and trustworthy individuals.
In at least one Kansas massage establishment, those kinds of safety or trust have been betrayed on several occasions. The establishment in question is called Spring Massage, and is located in Lawrence. Operated by a 50-year-old male and a 45-year-old female, the business has been shut down following the arrests of the proprietors. The two allegedly forced a pair of females (presumably customers) into sexual services at their place of business. They are both facing aggravated human trafficking charges as a result. The woman is also accused of soliciting sexual relations for pay, also at the Spring Massage location.
Neither of the proprietors at Spring Massage are first-time offenders. On the contrary, both previously operated a massage business in Bonner Springs, before being convicted in 2013 of promoting prostitution. If Kansas required background checks for massage therapists (or regulated the industry at all), the two would have likely lost their licenses and would not have been able to continue legally offering massage services in the state. However, since Kansas doesn't regulate the massage industry, they were able to simply move to a different city and start a completely new massage business without consequence. Evidently, it didn't take long for the pair to resume their criminal activity.
A lobbyist with the American Massage Therapy Association has gone on record saying that Kansas is a destination for shady massage therapists. Since the state requires no licenses for massage therapists, individuals who wouldn't be able to get licenses in other states, whether due to criminal history or because of a lack of qualifications, might come to Kansas to set up shop. Some local municipalities throughout Kansas have their own licensing requirements, but not all of them do. Considering the risks of prostitution and human trafficking in the massage therapy industry, Kansas might take this particular case as evidence that statewide licensing, certification, and background check requirements are needed. Right now, the industry in Kansas is facing a large number of disreputable businesses, and regular citizens are in danger as a result.