Letter to Seattle Public Safety Chair Herbold on Seattle’s Suspension of Sexual Assault Investigations

Below is a letter sent to Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who chairs the Public Safety committee on the recent revelation about the Seattle Police Department’s suspension of sexual assault investigations.


June 14, 2022

Councilmember Herbold,

This is Emi from the Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade. I’ve been in conversation with community members about the recent revelation about the Seattle Police Department’s suspension of adult sexual assault investigations, and I’d like to share some thoughts:

1. As others have already pointed out, SPD’s decision to abandon sexual assault victims is not a result of the “defund” movement, but that of a conscious decision to prioritize homeless encampment sweeps and low-level misdemeanor crimes such as small scale shoplifting.

2. SPD’s prioritization of anti-homeless and anti-poor enforcement didn’t just take resources away from investigating sexual assaults. It increases sexual assaults by making homeless and poor women (among others) more vulnerable to sexual coercion, exploitation, and violence.

3. Some observers have mentioned how there are many women working along Aurora who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and violence, and argued the police had better pay more attention to them. However, the reality is that the police has been paying extra attention to Aurora ever since the election to the detriment of the very women who are experiencing risk. After years of mostly benign neglect, SPD has ramped up targeted harassment of people suspected of walking while woman (of color) on Aurora under the same policy of targeting those “unwanted” by “neighborhood” NIMBY activists.

4) SPD’s deprioritization of sexual assaults demonstrates its misogyny and lack of understanding of harms of sexual violence, but it also shows the law enforcement’s internal logic: sexual violence is notoriously difficult to prosecute, compared to other crimes like shoplifting and trespass that they are prioritizing, because it often relies on the cooperation and perceived credibleness of traumatized and often confused or conflicting victims. The law enforcement prefers to focus on something where they can score points more easily.

…which brings us to 5) even in the best of circumstances, which we definitely are not in, but even in the best of circumstances, law enforcement cannot be the primary or effective solution for vast majority of sexual assault cases. Hence, regardless of SPD’s priorities, we cannot rely on the police as the primary vehicle to prevent sexual violence, support survivors, hold perpetrators accountable, etc. We need to reject attempts to use survivors to increase funding for the police, which would make more people vulnerable to sexual violence, and instead call for more funding for preventitive efforts at schools, communities, and workplaces, as well as for survivor support, restorative and transformative justice practices, etc.


Emi Koyama
Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade

Solidarity with Massage Parlor Workers Means Ending Police Raids and Patrols in the CID

(The statement below is reprinted from Chinatown/International District Coalition. Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade is one of the four organizations partnered to form the Massage Parlor Outreach Project.)



The Massage Parlor Outreach Project (MPOP) and Chinatown-International District (CID) Coalition are horrified by the recent shootings that have taken place in Atlanta and disgusted by the long history of misogyny and exploitative racism they represent. We extend our condolences to the families of Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Tan Xiaojie, Feng Daoyou, Park Soon Chung, Kim Hyun Jung Grant, Kim Sun Cha, and Yoo Yong Ae. To the sole survivor Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, who remains hospitalized with injuries, we pray for his health and send our wishes to his family.

Within hours of the news of this targeted massacre, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Chief of Police Adrian Diaz publicly pledged to increase police patrols in the CID and conduct outreach to Asian American and community-based organizations. Yet, for those in our community most affected by anti-Asian violence of the kind seen recently, increased policing only compounds the danger in their lives. And to date, grassroots groups who have built deep relationships with Asian migrant women working in CID massage parlors over many years have not been contacted by the Mayor’s office. Instead, Mayor Durkan and other local electeds made plans to interrupt a community vigil scheduled for Monday, March 22nd for the victims in Atlanta with a press conference of their own — an empty gesture and publicity act that appropriates and demeans community self-organizing.

Had the City bothered to conduct any meaningful community outreach, instead of scrambling to pull together a photo op, they would have learned that increased police presence does not prevent violence against Asians and Asian Americans. On the contrary, policing and surveillance harm the very people the Mayor and SPD now claim concern for.

Two years ago, Seattle Police raided 11 massage parlors, supposedly “rescuing” 26 Chinese women from so-called “sex trafficking operations.” In reality, the owners of these parlors were charged with promoting prostitution, not human trafficking. And the women who had been “rescued” were simply displaced. They lost both their means of living and their housing, as housing was connected to their workplace. Many had their meager cash savings and other belongings confiscated.

Police raids have made all massage parlor workers’ lives more precarious. By surveilling, punishing workers, or closing massage parlors, law enforcement officers take away workers’ safety, agency, and source of income — ultimately increasing their vulnerability to the most heinous forms of exploitation and gendered violence. In 2014, Seattle attorney and former city prosecutor Danford Grant was sentenced to 25 years for sexually assaulting 5 massage parlor workers. Like the Atlanta murderer, Grant, a white man, claimed to have a sex addiction. These unjust racist and gendered power dynamics — re-enforced by the targeted sexualized policing of massage parlors — expose Asian immigrant women working to survive to racist fetishisms and violence. Policing massage parlors without providing a viable structure for immigrant and undocumented women to succeed, thrive, and control their own lives only increases their jeopardy, exploitation, and precarity.

Mayor Durkan and Chief Diaz’s call for increased policing is inseparable from their support of and visions for gentrification in the neighborhood. As with speculative real estate developers and even local neighborhood nonprofits in the CID, talk about “public safety” is coded language for displacing massage parlor workers and our unhoused neighbors to appease white-advantaging gentrification. But just as encampment sweeps fail to address homelessness or meet the actual needs of unhoused people, policing massage parlors out of existence does nothing to improve living or labor conditions for those who work at and use these businesses.

We stand in solidarity with all low-wage immigrant workers. We stand in solidarity with our Black, Latinx, and Indigenous siblings who are impacted by police brutality, and who live in and adjacent to the CID. We stand with our immigrant siblings who are detained and deported by police, the FBI, and ICE. We stand with our houseless siblings who shelter in the CID together for collective safety and community. And we stand with massage parlor workers who have been systematically arrested and harassed by police. We refuse to allow yet another instance of wanton white supremacist violence to justify the increase and expansion of law enforcement into our neighborhood.

Massage parlor workers and workers who provide sex have always been part of the CID, along with migrant laborers, cooks, grocers, and merchants. If we truly want to “stop Asian hate” and keep our community safe, we start by protecting those most vulnerable.

We encourage policies that advocate for and alongside what massage parlor workers want and need to be empowered and safe from harm. We demand the decriminalization of sex work, and recognition of sex workers and immigrants in massage parlors as legitimate essential workers providing an in-demand service. And we demand the defunding of the Seattle Police Department and the reallocation of monies to housing and social services in the CID. Let’s respect massage parlor workers and fight the harm, not our own people.


The Massage Parlor Outreach Project (MPOP) and Chinatown-International District Coalition are two grassroots organizations based in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District. We value the cultural and historical importance of the Chinatown-International District (CID) and organize in solidarity with all who live and work in the CID, including massage parlor workers and houseless communities, for an inclusive CID.

Seattle Vigil for Atlanta Massage Workers by MPOP – Monday March 22th @ 9:15am

With rage, love, and solidarity, we invite our Seattle/King County community to remember the lives of the massage workers and clients who were murdered in Atlanta on Tuesday, 3/16/21 in an act of gendered colonial violence and white supremacy. We are honored to hold this vigil on the ancestral lands of the Duwamish and Coast Salish peoples.

🌸 Details 🌸

🌷 Monday 3/22/21, 9:30AM PST, Hing Hay Park

🌷 Food & beverages, station to send cards to Atlanta and fold cranes

🌷 Program will be presented in English, Mandarin, and Vietnamese. Featured speakers: Massage Parlor Outreach Project (MPOP), Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade, PARISOL, API Chaya, & UTOPIA

🌷 Please follow COVID safety guidelines: mask up, physical distance, sanitizer

🌷 Bring candles, flowers, small gifts for local massage workers, cards to send to Atlanta, or other memorabilia.

🌷 Be prepared for rain; we will have some canopies and seats for elders and disabled folks

As we gather to remember their lives, we also call on community to unequivocally support Seattle-area massage workers and sex workers, who deserve respect, protection, and power as beloved members of our community.

Let’s imagine a future where our massage parlor and immigrant Asian workers are safe from raids, criminalization, and terror from police and the crimmigration system. We are in solidarity with the movements for Black liberation and Indigenous sovereignty. The forces that make Asian immigrant women workers unsafe are the same ones that murder and harm our Black, Indigenous, undocumented, and houseless siblings.

Donations to MPOP will go to support Seattle-area massage workers and MPOP’s outreach work, please add memo “MPOP”:
Cashapp (preferred): $mpopsea
Venmo: @MPOP_SEA

Rest in Power:

Tan Xiaojie, 49
Feng Daoyou, 44
Park Soon Chung, 74
Hyun Jung Grant, 51
Yue Yong Ae, 63
Kim Suncha, 69
Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33
Paul Andre Michels, 54

(copied from Facebook event page)

Below is the text of the speech Emi gave on behalf of the Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade at the Seattle vigil on March 22, 2021.


Thank you everyone for gathering here this morning to honor people who have lost their lives in our current climate of hate and violence toward women, Asian people as well as other Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, immigrants, and people whose work is undervalued and disrespected.

My name is Emi and I am from the Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade, which has been part of the Massage Parlor Outreach Project from very beginning. I want to make it clear that not all migrant Asian women working at massage parlor do sex work, so massage workers should not be equated with sex workers. But the way the society vilifies, criminalizes, and targets sex workers for violence, as well as those that target women, Asians, immigrants, and poor people, affect all Asian massage workers regardless of whether or not they personally perform any sex work, as the recent violence in Georgia has shown, so we support and advocate for them all the same.

In February 2019, Seattle Police Department conducted the largest massage parlor raids in our city’s history. They shut down about a dozen Asian massage parlors and claimed to have “rescued” 26 Asian women. But the reality is that raids deprive women of their livelihood, displaces them, confiscates their cash savings and important documents, and abandons them. No manager or owner of the establishments have been charged with trafficking, the businesses reopened within weeks under a new management. The women would get on WeChat, a Chinese social media app, to find another massage parlor to work for in order to regain what they had lost in the police raid.

This is the exact same thing that happens to street-based sex workers when the police sweeps the street, or to internet-based escorts when they shut down Backpage: it displaces us and harms us without offering anything useful to improve our lives.

Some pro-police groups are capitalizing on the recent tragedy to increase surveillance and policing of our communities, but that is not the solution. We are indebted to the analysis of the Black-led uprising and join their call to divest from policing and to invest in community-led safety programs such as the Massage Parlor Outreach Project to protect our Asian sisters as well as all people experiencing violence. Thank you for joining our vigil today, and please connect with the Massage Parlor Outreach Project to find out how you can be part of the solution.

Communities Respond to the Shootings at Massage Parlors in Atlanta Area

We are joining communities in Seattle and across North America responding to the rise of anti-Asian violence and to the murder of eight individuals, including six Asian women workers, at Atlanta-area massage parlors earlier this week with calls to support community-led and community-centered safety solutions instead of increasing police surveillance of our communities.

Members of Seattle-based Massage Parlor Outreach Project (MPOP), which began in 2018 as a collaboration between Parisol (Pacific Rim Solidarity Network), CID Coalition, API Chaya, and the Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade, reached out to some of the women working at massage parlors in International District/Chinatown the morning after the news of violence in Atlanta. Understandably, they were scared.

MPOP is putting on a vigil Monday (March 22nd) morning. We will provide more information as they become available. You can donate to MPOP via Venmo at mpop_sea to support outreach and advocacy for massage parlor workers. Other organizations doing similar work include Red Canary Song in New York, Butterfly in Toronto, and SWAN Vancouver. Barnard Center for Research on Women has compiled a resources page for other community responses across North America.


Below is a copy of the statement presented by Emi at a virtual vigil on March 18th hosted by Red Canary Song:

Thank you for inviting me to speak tonight. It’s great to share space with you all despite such horrible circumstances.

My name is Emi and some of you know me as the Coordinatrix of the Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade in Seattle. I am also a member of the Massage Parlor Outreach Project, which is a collaboration between Parisol, or Pacific Rim Solidarity Network, CID (Chinatown/International District) Coalition, API Chaya, and the Coalition for Rights & Safety.

MPOP originally started as an internship project of one of our founders, but became more organized after the largest raid on massage parlors in Seattle’s history in February 2019. The police claimed that they “rescued” 26 women from sex trafficking, but the reality was that women working at these establishments were simply displaced. None of the managers or owners of massage parlors were charged with human trafficking, and the workers lost their jobs and any housing connected to their jobs, and many had their cash savings and important papers confiscated.

Most of the workers we reach speak Chinese, and some speak Vietnamese, so we sent outreach workers and volunteers who speak these languages to connect with them. We distributed care packages, health and safety information, and other important supplies. Many workers are feeling scared. They rely on each other and their boyfriends for safety, although we know that because of the nature of heteropatriarchy, boyfriends can sometimes be dangerous too. When asked what makes them feel safe, not a single person mentioned the police, and they never called 911 when they were assaulted.

Many workers are excited about the vigil we are planning in Seattle next week. We scheduled it on Monday morning to make it possible for actual massage parlor workers to attend before their work shift begins. We will have dim sum breakfast and provide care package for these workers. We hope to deliver any leftovers to other workers who could not show up.

In response to the recent spate of anti-Asian violence, our Mayor has pledged to send more police officers to the International District/Chinatown, but we do not feel safe with that. You know who routinely stroll around Seattle’s International District/Chinatown equipped with weapons, terrorizing and intimidating Asian American neighbors for no reason? The ICE vans. We firmly echo the massage parlor workers’ sentiments: More cops do not make us feel safer. We need to divest from the police and reinvest resources into community-based safety solutions, like we at MPOP are working towards, and look to other groups such as Red Canary Song, Butterfly, and SWAN Vancouver for example.

Our organizing today is informed by and made possible in large parts thanks to the Black-led uprisings that have been ongoing for centuries, and became extra visible since last summer. While the recent rise of anti-Asian violence deserves our attention, we must also keep fighting anti-Black racism and refuse to allow our community’s need for safety to rationalize the expansion of state institutions that especially targets and attacks Black communities. We must also resist the urge to co-op slogans like #BlackLivesMatter, erasing Black people from a message intended to resist the erasure of Black lives.

Thank you for our friends in Asian communities, sex worker communities, and all others gathered together to remember the victims of violence in Georgia as well as victims and survivors of state and non-state violence against our shared communities. Please keep taking care of yourself, your family and friends, and your neighbors in this scary time, as you have for centuries.