The Florida Department of Health issued an Emergency Order on May 24, 2019 restricting the massage therapy license of Bernard Torres in response to female clients reporting Torres engaged in sexual misconduct during massage appointments. The incidents were reported to have occurred at Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa, a massage establishment in Jacksonville.
The Department of Health found that Torres’ “unrestricted ability to provide massage services to female clients constitutes an immediate, serious danger to the health, safety, and welfare of the public.” Bernard Torres has been licensed as a massage therapist in Florida since 2005. Prior to this incident Torres was employed as a “lead massage therapist” at Hand and Stone in Jacksonville
According to the Department of Health’s Emergency Order, Torres was performing a massage on D.R., a 61 year old female on March 21, 2019. While the patient was face-up, Torres moved the draping down to her hips exposing the client’s breasts without her consent. He then is alleged to have brushed his hands over the breasts several times and massaged her between the breasts. The patient reported this activity to the managers of Hand and Stone as well as the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. Prior to this alleged incident, Torres had been warned by Hand and Stone when a different female patient alleged that Torres exposed her breasts during a massage after numerous attempts to pull the draping up.
Clients of massage therapists are placed in isolated, vulnerable settings where they can be subject to abuse by their massage therapists. Due to the potential for abuse that is inherent under these circumstances, massage therapists must possess good judgment and good moral character in order to safely practice massage therapy. Incidents such as this are a reminder that persons who may commit sexual misconduct work in all industries, even professions in which we typically place our blind trust. All allegations of sexual abuse must be thoroughly investigated by law enforcement and employers must be especially vigilant in supervision and protection at all times.
Attorney Adam Horowitz is experienced in handling claims nationwide on behalf of victims of sexual assault by massage therapists, including at Hand and Stone and other national chains, spas, and hotels. You can reach Adam Horowitz at [email protected] or call our law firm at (954) 641-2100.