According to the National Holistic Institute, people visit massage therapists an estimated 230 million times a year. Nearly 43% of these consumers said that they received massages to help them manage pain, rehabilitate injuries, or improve their overall wellness.
There is an element of trust involved in massage therapy, as you are lying naked beneath a sheet on a table and alone with a stranger behind a closed door. Unfortunately, this level of intimacy and privacy also makes it easy for sexual predators to take advantage of their clients. When a client has never had a massage before, an unethical therapist can use their ignorance to cross the line between professional and criminal.
If a massage therapist touches you inappropriately, it is a criminal offense. Therapeutic massages should never include touching of the genitals or even work on areas a few inches away from the genital area.
Unfortunately, this form of sexual abuse can happen to anyone at any time and leave you feeling confused. While you may be tempted to dismiss discomfort as part of the therapy or evidence of over-sensitivity on your part, remember that your instincts are rarely wrong. If a therapist’s touch feels inappropriate, it probably is.
What Can You Do?
Unfortunately, victims of sexual assault often feel as if they did something wrong. They second-guess themselves and wonder if they did anything to encourage the perpetrator.
Remember that no one asks to be abused. As a client, it is always your right to feel comfortable and safe during a massage session and if your therapist behaves in a way that makes you feel violated, you can tell them to stop.
If you are uncomfortable for any reason during a massage, take the following steps:
- Stop the session. Clearly and firmly tell the massage therapist to stop as soon as their touch or behavior makes you feel uncomfortable.
- Contact the police as soon as possible. Tell them exactly what happened. All details are needed to be used as evidence to lay charges against the therapist.
- Contact a medical professional. Even if you don’t believe you were injured, the physical and mental effects of sexual assault are devastating, and medical assistance will help you cope and heal.
- See a sexual abuse attorney about your legal options.
How Can You Protect Yourself?
Sexual predators try to disguise their activities as much as possible, but if you intend to undergo massage therapy, there are some steps you can take to verify that the therapist is ethical and professional.
- Check their credentials online. Read their reviews on Yelp, Facebook, Reddit, and other public forums. You can Google them to see their online reputation or to check the applicable licensing agency.
- Contact the office and inquire about its hiring policies. What credentials does a massage therapist need in order to work for them? Does it do background checks on applicants? If they refuse to provide this information, don’t book an appointment.
Once you arrive for a session, confirm that you will not be alone in the office or building with the therapist. If you’re lying unclothed on a massage table, you want to be sure that other employees are close at hand to assist you if things go wrong.
It Can Happen to Anyone
In November 2017, Massage Envy, a franchise with nearly 1,200 locations across 49 states, made headlines when over 180 women came forward to say that they had been sexually assaulted by massage therapists employed by the company. They alleged that Massage Envy had actively sought to prevent reports of these assaults from being reported to state massage therapy boards and law enforcement.
If you have been violated or experienced unwelcome touching during a massage session, you probably feel alone, distressed, and unsure about what to do. At Copeley Johnson & Groninger PLLC, we have helped people like you get justice and reclaim their lives.
We have represented women who were sexually abused during a massage, including two women who reported being sexually assaulted by a Massage Envy therapist in Wilmington, North Carolina. Our attorneys know what it takes to build a strong case and will support you as you take action. For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact Copeley Johnson & Groninger, PLLC or call 919-646-4220.