Massage therapy is a billion dollar industry with one in four adults having had a massage within the past year. Countless people go to spas, hotels, and other locations to receive a massage for relaxation, pain relief, detox, or therapy. Unfortunately, there are an extraordinary number of incidents of sexual assault in the massage therapy setting. In recent months, there have been well-publicized complaints and lawsuits alleging sexual assaults by massage therapists in the spa setting. These incidents have occurred in locations ranging from large national chains such as Massage Envy to luxury hotel spas to smaller storefront spas. Sadly, the perpetrators of these assaults are often repeat offenders and prey on the vulnerability of their clients.
Sexual abuse in the massage therapy setting is among the most traumatic and under-reported of all forms of sexual assault. Massage therapists in most states are licensed and regulated by the Department of Health. No massage therapist should ever make contact with your genital area or breasts. Indeed, sexual contact between massage therapists and clients is strictly prohibited under professional ethics and licensing rules as well as criminal law in most states. During a massage, clients are in an extraordinarily vulnerable setting. They are often undressed in a dimly lit room with a complete stranger (often of the opposite sex) whom they are expected to trust while lying in a prone position and seeking a relaxing experience. Given these circumstances, the massage therapist is actually aided in his commission of the assault by virtue of the conditions of his employment and his status as a licensed massage therapist. The imbalance of power between massage therapist and client adds to the fear and anxiety when sexual contact is initiated by the massage therapist. Often times due to shock and fear of the sexual contact, the client will go into an involuntary “freeze response” to cope with the trauma of the assault. This is a completely normal physiological response because the sexual contact is unexpected and the brain was previously attempting to go into a state of relaxation. Due to the “freeze response”, a client sexually assaulted in the massage setting often fails to immediately scream for help or otherwise report an assault. Sometimes victims of sexual assault experience guilt or shame if they did not immediately stop the sexual contact or report it right away. The “freeze response” is a completely normal response and the victims should not feel shame or guilt. It is never too late to report a massage therapist for sexual assault.
If you have a been a victim of sexual assault in a spa or during a massage, or if you know someone who has, please contact our law firm at (954) 524-2820 or send an email to sexual abuse lawyer Adam Horowitz at [email protected].