The recent news about Massage Envy has shaken the entire industry
As Massage Therapists we go through extensive background checks and are required to take ethics courses to prevent misconduct in the work place.
We have worked hard to over come the stereo types and educate others about the dangers of elicit Massage Parlors and Human Trafficking and to set ourselves apart from that element.
The recent news about the allegations at Massage Envy and the way that those allegations were handled leaves the entire industry, not just the chain spas, with another obstacle to over come.
First and foremost I want to say , if you are sexually assaulted during a massage MAKE SOME NOISE!
I understand you are laying naked under the covers and feeling vulnerable, find your voice!
Yell “STOP!” or “GET OUT OF MY ROOM NOW!” Or even simply “HELP!” The walls are thin enough that the clients and therapist in the next rooms will hear you and I for one would politely excuse myself from the client I am working on to come to your assistance as would many other therapists.
Always remember that you are not alone and if you are being victimized forget about being quiet and polite, make some noise!
What changes need to be made in our industry to ensure client safety?
With all the stringent background checks, licensing requirements, and ethics training one might ask how this even occurs at all, and that is a question that I have been asking myself over the past few days.
What I have come to realize is that a background check only assures you that the individual has not been caught and convicted of committing any crimes, that does not mean that they have not committed any and gotten away with it.
Which leaves us with WHY? Why have these incidents gone unreported or under reported? Why were these individuals simply fired and allowed to move on to other locations with an active license?
We can do better and protect other clients by making sure that these situation get fully reported and investigated.
Predators exist in all walks of life
We have all heard of Ministers, Doctors, and Nurses sexually assaulting parishioners and patients.
I once worked in an Assisted Living facility that had to deal with a predatory Nursing Assistant who was stealing patients jewelry, credit cards, and even their identities and I was horrified to see the lengths the company would go to protect itself, not the patient. The thought that that Nursing Assistant might still have a valid license to continue preying upon the elderly haunts me to this day.
This is exactly where the problem lies, if these predators go unreported and are quietly removed from their jobs they simply move on to another location where they can continue to victimize others until one day someone, somewhere will finally get up the courage to call the police and start an investigation.
Sexual assaults are even more complicated
Most sexual assaults go unreported by the victims. That means that the ones we are actually hearing about now are only the tip of the iceberg.
Victims of sexual assault are less likely to report right away because their initial response is to get away, which is why many of those who did complain called the company days or even weeks later to report the incidents and did not do so at the time the assault occurred.
A victim of sexual assault is dealing with many thoughts and emotions, feelings of being violated, guilt or shame for not yelling or making a scene, fear, and shock.
The fact that many of these victims were not taken seriously because they waited to make their complaint is concerning to me, victims of sexual assault often times need to get up the courage to even talk about it. All allegations of abuse no matter how long the victim took to come forward need to be taken seriously.
Another thing that complicates such allegations in this industry is that some allegations of sexual misconduct are in some cases simple misunderstandings such as the client not knowing that a glute massage is not a sexual act but a therapeutic treatment for low back pain. In that situation a therapist may find themselves being accused of sexual misconduct when nothing sexual was intended at all. That being said a therapist should always get a clients consent before working in areas such as the glutes or upper pectoral muscles.
What has prompted me to write about this today?
Yesterday at one of my places of employment all male staff members were pulled aside for a meeting which consisted of mostly telling them to be more conservative in everything that they do, from draping procedures to therapeutic services.
Later I spoke with the owner about this and asked her:
“Is every receptionist trained in how to handle such allegations, what to do, who to call, and when to call the police? Because this isn’t just about the men knowing what not to do, its about all of the staff knowing what to do should such a situation occur.”
Do we even have a protocol in place to deal with these kinds of allegations? If not, why not? All massage establishments should have a clear protocol in place when such a complaint is made and depending on the severity of the complaint when to involve the police.
It is the matter in which the allegations against Massage Envy were handled that is the most serious issue, such as why were the predators not reported to the police or the state boards? Why were they allowed to continue preying on other women? Why do some of these predators still have active licenses to perform massage services?
What needs to happen to protect our clients?
Retraining the male staff members is not only unnecessary but discriminatory. We ALL took the ethics classes, we ALL were fully background checked, and we ALL know right from wrong. This has nothing to do with the sexual orientation of the therapist, a predator is a predator and they need to be weeded out of our industry through the proper channels and brought to justice.
I am all for a nationwide protocol and reporting system, that being said I am also aware that there are people who might make reports out of retaliation or spite that may be unfounded, so each case should be taken case by case.
Every company should have a protocol in place with specific instructions on who to contact in the company, such as the manager on duty or owners, and when to contact the police. This should also apply to cases where the therapist is the victim of a sexual assault, that too goes sadly unreported as well.
Reporting to the state boards
The following link will give you information of the various massage boards by state, most states have their own licensing board that you can contact to look up someones license or make a complaint about a therapist. https://www.abmp.com/practitioners/state-requirements
As a Massage Therapist who is also a survivor of sexual abuse I take this situation very seriously and very personally. I look forward to an open dialog with my peers about how to prevent future sexual assaults in the massage industry.
Yours in Health and Wellness,
Kristeen Anne Smart aka Kristeen Anne Kish
CAMTC Certified Massage Therapist