A massage should be a pleasant and relaxing experience. Unfortunately, many massage clients endure sexual abuse by their massage therapists.
According to one report, more than 180 women reported sexual abuse by their massage therapists in 2017. All these cases came from those who went to Massage Envy, a nationwide massage parlor chain facing heavy scrutiny for its massage therapists sexually abusing clients.
Whether you get your massages from Massage Envy or elsewhere, knowing when the behaviors and actions of your massage therapist cross the line can limit the harm they cause you and others.
What’s appropriate vs. inappropriate
Here is a breakdown of what is and isn’t okay for your massage therapist to do while you’re in for an appointment:
- Your needs vs. the therapist’s needs: When you go in for a massage, you are the one paying for the service, so you call the shots. You and your massage therapist should agree on the type of massage you want, how much pressure they put on your body and where they should and should not touch you. If your massage therapist ignores or dismisses your requests or inserts their needs into the client intake discussion, this can be a red flag.
- Choosing to unclothe vs. being forced to unclothe: You may choose to take off your clothes for a massage session. Or you may choose to wear a hospital gown or only take off your shoes. Whatever you decide, your therapist should respect what makes you comfortable. A sexually abusive massage therapist may insist that you are partially or entirely naked for the session or say that you must undress in front of them.
- Your therapist’s regard vs. disregard of professional boundaries: Your massage therapist should know and understand where they can touch you during a session. Massage therapists receive instruction to avoid massaging specific body parts, such as a person’s genitals or anus – even if a client requests it. Florida does not provide specific regulatory guidelines for breast massages. However, Florida massage therapists must have a license and not sexually massage a client’s breasts. Massage therapists have a duty of care to respect and maintain these boundaries. And while you should communicate related health and medical concerns to your massage therapist, you shouldn’t have to tell them not to touch your private areas– that is an expectation.
You have options for reporting abusive massage therapists
If your therapist ignores your requests, violates your boundaries or touches you inappropriately, it’s your right to call out their behavior. You can report sexually abusive massage therapists to your local police department or the Massage Therapy Board of Registration.
Seeking justice involves taking small steps. And when you do, you can stand a better chance of holding your abuser accountable.