Sexual Assault During Massage

I read an article on BuzzFeed that just came out yesterday. It’s titled “More than 180 Women Have Reported Sexual Assaults at Massage Envy” and I’ve been horrified of what have been done to these innocent victims during massage sessions.

It starts off with a story of a woman who was sexually assaulted by a male massage therapist who ground his erect penis against her body, groped her breasts and even put his fingers in and out of her vagina. According to the article, dozens of women reported digital and oral penetration. You can read the rest of the article on your own from the link here involving a fist and sucking on the client’s nipples during pregnancy massage.

I’m also horrified of what the managers of these places didn’t do when these were reported because they were following the “company policy.” Several years ago, at the high-end spa that I work at, a female client reported that she was inappropriately touched by a male therapist. The male therapist was in a session with another client, but the manager went in, stopped the session and escorted him out right away. I was very impressed with the management’s action. Few years later though, I found out my friend was working with him at Massage Envy. So I hope it’s a case where he was cleared of all the allegations made against him and not because Massage Envy hires anyone.

As the article says, “Only 4% of upset customers will tell you when there is a problem“ supposedly taken from the Massage Envy’s own orientation manual. So I bet there are lot more victims at Massage Envy but this can happen anywhere.

So here’s my message to you if you go to a massage place.

1) Know your boundaries and let the massage therapists know. I mean communicate clearly because we are not psychics. All the good ones will honor your boundaries. As a massage client, you are already in a vulnerable position because you are pretty much naked under the sheets. I have massaged around the bras for people who didn’t feel comfortable taking them off.

No matter how experienced or inexperienced you are with massage, your boundaries are yours so honor them yourself and don’t tolerate anything.

2) Do or say something before it gets too late. One time I was getting a massage at this Chinese foot massage place. They say foot massage but they also massage the whole body. This young Chinese guy was massaging my decolete and his fingers were getting closer and closer to my breasts. I just said “What are you doing?” and his hands just retracted so quickly. This was in a shared room so I was in a safer place but I’m pretty sure he was going for it if I didn’t say anything.

Let’s say you were in an isolated room. You can give a verbal warning like I did or you can excuse yourself to go to the bathroom and go straight to the manager. I know it can be scary and you may freeze in the situation but only you can protect yourself. If necessary go ahead and make a scene. It’s ok to be kicking and screaming literally. Don’t worry about bothering the neighbors and ruining their massage experience. I’m sure your neighbors will be happy to find out you were not getting sexually assaulted next door.

3) Report and spread the word for others to know. If something happens, report to the manager of the business and call the police right away. If the massage therapist is a solo practitioner, call the police. Massage license is regulated by each state or possibly by a city. Find out if you can file a complaint with the massage licensing board. In California, there is a state licensing board and we have to pass the FBI’s background check every time we renew the license. If the sexual predator massage therapist is not reported to the authority, he or she can quit one place and work somewhere else.

You may need to hire a lawyer too but besides legal actions, these days you can share your experience on social media such as Yelp and Facebook so you can protect the future victims, especially now that the climate is changing for the victims to speak out easier.

I hope that justice will be served for those who have been mistreated during the massage and after the incidents.

Massage Monday #370 – Sexual Assault During Massage