THE PROBLEM OF SEXUAL ASSAULT BY A MASSAGE THERAPIST
Sexual assault by a massage therapist is not uncommon. A Buzzfeed investigation last year revealed that at one chain alone, therapists had sexually assaulted over 180 women. This investigation looked at the largest massage chain in the country, Massage Envy. But sexual assaults happen at small spas also. Spa businesses are on notice now and should take steps to reduce the chance that a therapist will assault a client. Spa owners also report that sometimes the client can be inappropriate with the therapist. Dealing with the issue for all involved, as this spa owner did, is far better than sticking one’s head in the sand.
WHAT TO DO TO TRY TO AVOID
It is difficult, if not impossible, to pick out ahead of time who to avoid, but there are a couple of things you can do. First, read the online reviews. It is not necessarily the case that a victim will disclose abuse in that forum, but it is worth checking. Second, for Oklahoma, you can check for criminal records by entering a name at ODCR.com.
If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation during a massage, it can be very difficult to alter course. We’ve all learned about “fight or flight” as the brain/body reaction to a perceived threat. In reality, there is another reaction also – “freeze.” So, it is not uncommon to “freeze” when a situation has taken a turn for the worse. Your brain may try to minimize the perceived threat – that touch was just an accident or that did not just happen. Those experiencing sexual assault by a massage therapist may act as if nothing happened – going through the motions of a “normal” massage to avoid acknowledging what has happened. Some sex assault victims even leave a tip!
Knowing that your brain may react this way can hep you be more pro-active in a threatening situation. Stating out loud that you are uncomfortable may actually be all you have to do. If that does not work, stop the therapy. Both actions, however, require that you overcome a normal response of freezing.
Do not blame yourself if you were unable to say or do something to prevent the assault. The normal biological freeze response is extremely difficult to overcome. It is very normal not to be able to react in the way that you wanted to. The shame or humiliation you feel over this normal biological response can make you feel even worse.
WHAT TO DO IF IT HAPPENS TO YOU
If you have been a victim of sexual assault by a massage therapist or during other body therapy work, there are several things you should know. Oklahoma law, as of 2017, requires that massage therapists carry insurance for the protection of clients. This same law also requires therapists have a significant number of educational hours. Although many therapists were “grandfathered” in, this requirement may eventually help weed out problematic therapists.
Sexual assault by a massage therapist is never acceptable. It is a crime. But victims also have the right to sue perpetrators and sometimes the spa in a civil lawsuit. If you have been the victim of a sexual assault by a massage therapist, contact Koller Trial Law. We can explain your options in a free consultation.