This post is in response to the recent allegations reporting over 180 sexual assault claims at a major massage chain.
Why is this happening? Why has this become such an epidemic in the massage industry? There are millions of people seeking to embrace health and wellness into their lives yet they are met with this. Due to the magnitude of these charges, there is no doubt that the massage industry will be affected. One thing is certain, the trust placed in the hands of massage therapists has been questioned. Now, more than ever it’s important that those that love massage and have chosen it as a career come together to educate the public that there are committed therapists that practice with integrity.
As a practicing massage therapist I’ve heard many stories from women (and some men) about sexual assault in the massage room. My heart breaks for those that search for massage as a method to lead a healthier life only to be met with a violation of body and mind. My contribution against these threats is to assure them through the results in my own work. Verbally, I remind them that there continues to be ethical professionals that treat the body with the respect it deserves.
It has never been an easy choice to be associated in a career that is tied together with sex. In fact, three years into my career I almost quit because of some inappropriate suggestions I would receive from male clients. I loved my new occupation but as a young therapist, I was disheartened. One day, a colleague directed me to undertake neuromuscular massage and have the opportunity to work with doctors. It was under the prospect of practicing in safety within medical offices that I continued my career and flourished. I was blessed enough to have found my niche in working with pain management and with the challenge of helping people out of pain naturally.
Massage franchises have proven to have been a blessing and curse in the industry. They have helped make massage therapy mainstream and accepted in society. Prior to massage franchises, therapists were categorized as eccentric tree huggers and their clientele were natural living enthusiasts or the wealthy. Franchises gave the public a middle ground to experience massage. Where they have failed is in quality. Hopeful new therapists graduate with license in hand only to work long hours for a small wage. I have visited massage franchises many times only to converse with therapists and discover how unhappy they truly are. Even if the exceptional ones stay, they move on the management positions and are in such high demand that eventually they become injured.
My message is to remind others that massage is not a sexual service, it is a therapeutic benefit and a wonderful self-care practice. It is meant to help others find relief from muscular pain, reduce stress levels and lead more productive lives. Sexual assault can exist anywhere that massage is offered. If you want to explore massage as a health related maintenance or to eliminate dependency of pills for pain, I commend you for that.
To reassure yourself I encourage you to research your therapists, many are very much career-driven and trustworthy. The State of Florida now requires background checks for all applicants of a massage therapy license. Each state varies, however most states regulate practitioners and can give you information. The Board of Massage in Florida gives you access to the massage therapist with their license number and any criminal charges against their license,check here. Seek out information on individual therapists when searching Google or Yelp, and ask family and friends for a massage therapist they have used on multiple occasions. I’ve always championed individual therapists and feel that spas and companies do not highlight them. If this were the case, massage therapists that choose to assault others could not hide behind a brand or a company and be dismissed quietly. We need more accountability on each therapist, showcase the excellent ones and weed out the predators.