I want to thank the Star Tribune for covering the incidents of alleged police officer sexual misconduct toward massage parlor employees in prostitution sting operations.

Many may read about these incidents and think, “What’s the big deal? These women engage in sexual acts with parlor customers for money anyway. No harm, no foul, right?”

Wrong.

First, the police were there to conduct a clandestine investigation into whether criminal activity was occurring as suspected. To be clear, once an agreement is made between the worker and the “customer” for anything involving sexual acts (including touching) in exchange for money, the crime is complete. That would appear to be the case here, only in these instances, the “customers” were police officers who decided that “to protect and to serve” entitled them to some service of their own.

Last time I checked, it was the duty of a police officer to enforce the law. Vice officers know the law specific to massage parlors that operate as fronts for sex trafficking and are trained to work undercover operations.

It is not just “lawyer speak” to say that there is absolutely, unequivocally, no legitimate or legal reason to engage in sexual acts or touching before or after the agreement is made by an officer or money has been exchanged. That this did occur makes the officers involved nothing more than common “johns.” These particular officers are no less victimizers than are those who run the massage parlors or use the password regularly to purchase these women’s bodies.

These officers are, in fact, victimizers of the highest order. They swore an oath to protect the community, which includes these women. Instead, the officers used their power to engage in sexual acts with their “targets,” pulled up their pants when they were done and proceeded to charge the women. Imagine how hard it must be on regular old johns, trying to have a little fun with these forgotten girls without the benefit of a badge with which to shield themselves.

Last, what must not be forgotten as we discuss this topic in an open arena that so frequently ignores it, is the fact that these women are victims — many of human trafficking, and all of sex trafficking. Enough have endured physical, mental, and sexual trauma and abuse starting so long before they became “sex workers” that I wonder how many of these precious humans remember what it felt like to just be a girl.

Each of these women did start life as a little girl. And little girls know in their souls — just like lionesses know in their souls — that they are given the gifts of power and beauty, strength and dreams, and above all, the ability to give pure love to others.

Tragically, for too many girls, these gifts are robbed from them, despite their most desperate attempts to grasp on to them, because someone caught the girl’s gaze and saw only a sex toy: a soulless object to be bought and sold, kept on a shelf and taken down only for prurient play, and stepped on without consequence.

I hope that at least one still secretly dreams, holding the dream close, guarded. Because the knight sent by the police — the one who was supposed to rescue her tonight — may very well be face up and naked on her massage table; his badge hidden between the table and the sweaty small of his back, while she wonders if she’ll ever escape this life.

 

Heather Kennedy-Bordeaux, of St. Paul, is a criminal-defense attorney.