Edmonton body rub parlour customers should be ID’d for women’s safety: advocates

Kate Quinn with the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation speaks at Edmonton City Hall Monday, June 19, 2017. Scott Johnston, 630 CHED

The City of Edmonton is going to make attempts to ID the men who frequent body rub parlours.

Council’s Community and Public Services Committee asked Monday for a report looking into the ability to ID clients, to help police in instances where practitioners are harmed in violent encounters.

Kate Quinn with the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE) told reporters that more than half of the women in the industry they’ve talked to say they’ve seen violence.

“In our little humble report, 57 per cent identified some sort of physical or sexual violence. And of those who said they didn’t experience [it], 10 of them actually said they sought medical support for harm. So I think the risk is high.”

The informal survey by CEASE gathered information from 42 women in the body rub industry. Those who said they experienced violence outlined situations of verbal and emotional abuse, biting and hair-pulling, and being pressured into performing sexual acts they did not want to.

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Quinn pushed for a mechanism to ID the customers.

“Sometimes going into a bar I’m asked for ID, so why are we treating this industry different?” she said.

“What is the hesitancy? Why are we creating this protection for these men, especially when they may be the ones harming women?”

The committee was told about reluctance from the industry.

“There was strong feedback from the practitioners and the owners that that would definitely deter people from attending,” said Jenny Kain with the city’s community and family supports, which oversees the social worker aspect of the file.

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It prompted Coun. Ben Henderson to worry the practice would be driven “underground,” with practitioners finding clients through the Internet instead of a parlour, where there is video surveillance and city support.

Quinn said the goal is to increase support for the women caught in this practice.

“Right now all we can do is listen and try to help them report, but we have a duty to do something as a city and police service – to help those who are being harmed and who are brave enough to come forward.”

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She said she’ll continue her research and wants to talk to the customers.

“I want to ask, ‘Why does a man think he can choke a woman? Why does he slap her? Hit her? Hold her down? Want to take the condom off, force her in any way? Why does he think he can do that in this industry and nowhere else?'”

Two other segments of the motion ask for the elimination of fees for body rub practitioners and to get an annual report back measuring the success of any changes they make.

Committee chair Coun. Bev Esslinger said the file is slowly moving forward.

“It’s a very complex subject and we’re talking about very vulnerable people, so for me, we’re continuing moving it forward and I’m really interested in a report on what we’ve been able to accomplish, how we’ve been able to support women to come out of these industries.”

Other safety concerns brought forward in the survey included a lack of cameras, security doors or panic buttons. Other women raised concerns about being alone in the studio.

City staff has been asked to carry out further consultation with the owners and practitioners of body rub centres, Edmonton police and other stakeholders to evaluate potential ways to better identify visitors of these establishments. A report is expected back at city council in about 12 weeks.

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With files from Caley Ramsay, Global News. 

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