Houston has the highest concentration of escort workers in the country, with more than 4,000 in the city, according to the National Association of Realtors.
The NAR estimates there are about 5,500 escorts, which are mostly women.
But it doesn’t include those working in hotels and bars.
The most recent data from the American Bar Association says more than 700 of the country’s more than 9,000 hotels and restaurants require escorts.
So, if you’re a hotel or restaurant in the Houston area, you’re probably not alone.
“There’s a lot of folks who have not taken the time to understand the importance of being aware of what they’re putting into their establishments,” said Rachel McManus, president of the Association of Independent Escorts.
“You need to educate the people that are doing the work, to educate them to be safe.”
McManuses said some establishments do not even have a website to tell people how to avoid the dangers of escorting, including online dating sites like OkCupid and Craigslist.
So many people are working for the same companies, she said, that many are not aware of how safe their work is.
“The majority of people are unaware of the risks of working for these companies,” she said.
But some escorts are willing to risk their safety.
“I know I’m not the only one who has been sexually assaulted, I know the people who have been sexually abused, and I know a lot about the dangers,” said Laura Davenport, a 32-year-old escort in Houston.
She works in the hotel industry in an exclusive area, but she said she doesn’t mind doing her work as long as she can protect herself.
“A lot of people will say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to do it.
I don,t want to get arrested,’ ” Davenports said.
“But I don-t want people to feel unsafe.
I-don’t want them to feel intimidated.
I’m going to make sure that they’re safe, that they can walk in the door safely, and that they have a good time.”
DavenPort said her clients are often not aware that the escorts they hire also have a criminal background.
“They’re not told,” she added.
“And the reality is that a lot are not being educated, they’re not being given enough information.”
She said it can be difficult to know what’s safe and what’s not.
“It’s just a fact of life,” she explained.
“When you’re working as an escort, it’s really about the people you’re representing, it-is your job to be in a safe place, and you have to be aware of all the risks.”
A common misconception about escorts is that they come to Houston for sex.
But McManans said the industry is primarily about making money.
“Some of them have a long history of having sex in their homes,” she noted.
“We don’t see it as a lifestyle choice, we see it just as being a business opportunity.”
Some escort agencies are also run as strip clubs.
Davensons clients, on the other hand, often work for the agency because it allows them to avoid being seen with the clients they escort.
The strip clubs do not have escorts as workers, and are not regulated by the city.
So escort agencies do not register with the city and cannot provide information about their work practices.
McManos said she knows of at least one escorts agency in Houston who is not registered with the state.
“For the most part, it is not the way it should be,” she acknowledged.
But if you have a problem with someone working as a escort, you may be able to get help from the police.
In Houston, there is a special unit for sex crimes, known as the Sexual Assault Unit.
“What we have is trained officers who are trained to work with women in their situation, to talk to them, to support them and be able, in fact, provide them with information,” said Sergeant Ron Wood of the Sexual Crimes Unit of the Houston Police Department.
“In most cases, that information is not available to the public.”
So, you might ask yourself: What if my client isn’t telling me the whole truth?
If she’s just lying, how do I find out?
Wood said the officers will interview witnesses and other evidence to help narrow down a suspect’s background.
So far, he said, he has identified six people who work as escort workers and have been arrested for sex offenses.
“This is something that has been in the works for years, and we are trying to put together a team that will put the pieces together so that we can provide information to the community so that people can understand what’s going on,” he said.