That Time A Massage Therapist Crossed A Boundary

Two detectives from the Mesa police department visited me today. But before I can tell that story, I need to rewind a bit.

 

Four years ago, I was getting a massage from a male therapist. This was maybe our fourth or fifth session together. I noticed he was working my glutes a little different this time compared to previous sessions. Thought little of it at the time because as I was trying to relax. When face up, he starts working my pecs in a different way than I remembered from the previous sessions. And his hands went lower, and lower, and... After making blatant and obvious inappropriate contact with my breasts I told him I was uncomfortable and he politely moved on to my legs. As he worked my second leg, he again made inappropriate attempt at sexual contact under the sheet. I told him I was extremely uncomfortable and ended the session. After I was dressed, he apologized. I brushed him off and told him I wasn’t in a good mindset to talk or accept an apology. 

 

After a couple days, and a few conversations with some trusted confidants, I decided to send him a text expressing my anger, disappointment, and concerns regarding his conduct. He sent a series of replies apologizing, he thought there was a mutual attraction, that he doesn’t conduct himself in this way regularly, and he asked for another chance to prove his professionalism. I didn’t think it necessary to reply. And he doesn’t know this- but I didn’t  and still don’t accept his apology. 

 

A couple more days passed and I decided to file a complaint with the state massage board. I was doubtful anything would result, but I felt it important to at least document the incident with an official agency in case his behavior manifests again or progresses with another client in the future. After a couple weeks, I get a call from the assistant attorney general assigned to the massage board. She informed me the state board reviewed my complaint and determined a formal hearing is in order. She informed me she was my advocate/representation on this case and asked if I would be willing to testify at this hearing as it is a he-said-she-said case. I agreed to testify and provide a more detailed written statement. She also informed me she would also interview him, he would provide a written statement and he is responsible for his own representation. She starts asking me questions and I answer. The specific language of the text conversation comes into question. Remember this was 4 years ago and screenshots weren’t as widely common. I inform her I still have the text conversation in my phone and offer to send her screenshots if it helps. 

 

The day of the hearing, he shows up without legal representation. We were both given the exhibits of both our written statements, and the screenshots. We’re both sworn in under oath and the assistant attorney general makes her opening remarks. He makes a brief opening statement and the board members begin their questions directed at me. For almost 2 hours I answered questions. 

 

“You’re also a massage therapist, correct? Why didn’t you resolve this with him, professional to professional?”

Pretty sure I tried that when I asked him to stop the first time.

 

“If you were uncomfortable with how he was working your glutes, why didn’t you end the session then?” 

Because maybe he has bigger hands than I have ass cheeks? And I like glute work. Just not when it’s in my ass crack. 

 

“Why didn’t you say anything sooner if you felt his hands moving past your pecs to your breasts? Are you sure the contact with the breasts was intentional?”

Because he was working on my pecs and it takes a split second to move from pecs to breasts on a small frame? And I must have missed the day in massage school where they teach how pinching the nipples offers therapeutic benefit.

 

“He says in his written response that it wasn’t his hand you felt on your genitals, it was the fan moving the sheet. Is that possible?”

Pretty sure I know the difference between a sheet moving in the breeze and when I’m about to get finger banged. But thanks for playing Devil’s Advocate.

 

Ok, that wasn’t how I answered the questions. But it was what I was thinking.

 

The board and assistant attorney general spent about fifteen minutes asking him questions. Fifteen minutes to my near 2 hours. He was not aware of the exhibit including the screenshots of the text conversation until this time. When the board members asked him to turn to those pages in the exhibit, he spent a moment reading them. He claimed no recollection of receiving or sending those texts. He continued to lie about what happened, including insisting that the sheet slipped while he was working my pecs and the contact with my breasts was an attempt to fix it. That the perceived contact with my labia was an attempt to get to adductor origin points. 

 

I was then asked how I can prove that text conversation I provided screenshots was, in fact, with him. I kept that text conversation saved in my phone for that very reason. The board didn’t find it necessary to physically investigate my phone. Guess I had established enough credibility? 

 

The state board doesn’t deliberate in private. They dug into the findings of each of our testimonies in open forum. One board member, the only woman, says “Well, this is a he-said-she-said case” to which another board member replied “Pretty sure what she said is what really happened based on the evidence.” I was grateful for his confident support. They talk back and forth about appropriate reprimands, about how I maybe could have prevented this, about the fact that I’m also a massage therapist changes the client-therapist boundaries. They decided on a 3 month license suspension, 12 month probation with reviews at his license renewal and at the one year anniversary of the hearing, and additional continued education hours in ethics and draping. I looked him up on the state board site earlier this week. Probation was lifted about 5 months early, at his license renewal review for some unstated reason. 

 

After that conclusion, he stormed out. The assistant attorney general asked me if I wanted an escort to my car. I told her I was fine, but wanted to sit in the back of the room to collect myself before driving home. 

 

I’ve thought of this off an on over the last four years. The Taylor Swift case reminded me of it earlier this year. How she had to answer her questions in court with what many hear as an arrogant tone. I know that tone- it’s the “My answers aren’t going to change no matter how many times you ask or how many different ways you ask” tone. When your boundaries and body is violated, you remember details. With certainty. The cultural discussion we are having about sexual harassment/misconduct/assault is reminding me of this episode again. And especially this week because a friend, a male massage therapist, called me the other day because it was on his mind and wanted to see how I’m doing a few years on. I’m fine, but reminded of that anger considering the cultural discussions we are having. 

 

So, back to today- when the Mesa Police detectives said this morning they’re visiting me regarding a complaint I filed not with any police department, but another agency regarding Mr. Steven Hall, my heart sank. I said “Did he do it again...???” The detectives asked if I might be willing to come in for an interview next week. I told her, and her partner I absolutely will and regret not going to the police in the first place. I didn’t go to the police because I honestly didn’t think anything would result. Plus, I didn’t want to ruin his career- at the time, I was more concerned about his career than how this may come back to haunt other potential victims in the future. I deeply regret that. I just felt it necessary to have the details documented for future reference if needed. And turns out, it’s sadly needed. Without knowing details of the case that sparked new interest in my complaint, I should suspend judgment and put faith in due process; a constitutional guarantee we hold dear. 

I have massive issues with #metoo - a campaign that forces victims who have laws protecting privacy to out themselves in order to advance cultural and policy change. Thought I would refrain from participating until this morning. 

 

 

January Featured Business- Visual Harmony Photography

Late 2016 something beautiful occurred to me- I know a lot of wonderful women who own their own businesses. I had this brilliant idea to highlight one woman-owned business each month in solidarity with this fast-growing, kick-ass demographic. Here we are half way through January and I'm finally getting around to it. You know how it goes...

This first business I'd like to share with you is Jill Flynn at Visual Harmony Photography. Jill was kind enough to let me hang a few of her pieces in my current treatment room. You know all those adorable puppies and kittens!?! Those are hers! Jill donates her time and talent to local rescues and shelters, photographing animals to help improve adoption rates. She co-founde HeArts Speak, a non-profit organization that allows her and other like-minded artists teach individuals working with shelters near and far how to take the best possible photographs of animals in need of a forever home.

In addition to animal photography, her fine art, nature, and digital work are beautiful. She donates portion of proceeds from her online store to animal rescues. If you're looking for animal art, or would like to take her online photography class OR if you want private instruction via Skype or in person for you AZ folks, please visit her web site. 

I love local businesses, and I love seeing more women in business for themselves. I am so very grateful for the work Jill does for animals in need. Please help me support this amazing woman who inspires me to be a better business owner, and a better human.

Pumpkin Apple Facial and Peel

Enter fall this year with Rhonda Allison’s Pumpkin Apple Fall Facial. A new, exciting facial created just for the season, this corrective treatment has everything you need to revive dry summer skin. Packed full of nutritious pumpkin and rejuvenating apple wine extract, this is sure to generate results. Tightens and firms, infuses skin with potent antioxidant support and brightens skin tone for a beautiful, glowing polish and radiant skin that will last for weeks. 

 

If your skin is in need of something with a little more kick, awaken your skin to all the favorites of fall in the form of a chemical peel. Rhonda Allison’s new Pumpkin Apple Fall Peel uses the natural benefits of apples and pumpkin to firm and tone for a refined look while nourishing and brightening dull, dry summer skin. You will love the pro-youth results just in time for holiday festivities! Great for smoker’s skin, too! 

 

 

How do you know if a massage establishment is legit?

I get this question a lot; more than I would like.  There are so many ‘massage’ parlors offering adult services under the disguise of a true, therapeutic or clinical massage establishment it can be overwhelming to the consumer to make the differentiation.  Hopefully I can provide the newbie a few tips to ask when scheduling so there isn’t any surprise or awkwardness upon arrival.      

Presentation/Hours of Operation- When you call to set an appointment, pay attention to the language the receptionist uses. Typically, a legitimate establishment will refer to the practitioners as therapists, practitioners, LMTs, or massage therapists. An illegitimate establishment will likely refer to them as masseuses, masseurs, ‘girls’, ‘boys/guys’, or any other casual, non clinical reference. If they only offer in-office services, check their website and ask if the photos posted on line are of their facility or if they used stock photos. You have every right and reason to ask to see the facility and have a mini tour before scheduling to scout the location for your comfort and safety. Décor can say a lot about their business model. Neon signs, animal print furniture, and a more sultry décor may signify an illegitimate practice. If it is a home-based or out call practice, ask if they bring a portable massage table or floor mat for Thai/shiatsu sessions. If they work on their/your bed, chances are there is another direction this session can take.  Also ask about their hours of operation. If they are a 24 hour facility, you can almost guarantee they offer adult services. I would be suspicious of any business offering appointment later than a 8:00 p.m. start time during the week.  Places that accept walk-ins are sometimes a little sketchy. I am not fond of accepting same day appointments only because I am likely booked, or need whatever available hour to catch up on calls/texts/emails, paperwork, or eating. But some establishments do keep an on-call therapist on site to accommodate the last-minute client.   Uniform and dress code can also an indicator of a business’s intentions. One is safe to assume that miniskirts, fishnet, animal prints, and stilettos are signs of questionable practices. Any form of business casual, scrubs, and even active wear/yoga attire (for client assisted stretching like Thai) is expected in legitimate practices.   

Licensing/Insurance - After you get all questions asked about the facility and their management, ask about the therapists’ credentials. In Arizona, massage is regulated by the Arizona Board of Massage Therapy.  Licensed massage therapists are required to have their state issue license posted in an inconspicuous site in their place of work. The AZ Massage Board also has a data base on their websitecataloging every licensed therapist, the status of their license, and if any action has ever been deemed (misconduct, suspension, revocation, and the like).   Massage therapists typically carry liability insurance. You are welcome to ask about this at scheduling. Most therapists never have to use their policies, but carry as precaution and for peace of mind. Clients can ask for therapist insurance information to research if there has ever been a claim filed for negligence, misconduct, or malpractice.

Draping- Draping is the use and manipulation of the sheets in a massage session. A professional practitioner will always use a top sheet when the client disrobes to any degree. Additionally, the practitioner will only expose the body part being worked on at that time. At no point will a legitimate massage therapist expose the breast or genital regions.  Glute draping should always expose only one half of the glutes (right or left side) at a time. When scouting for new establishments, ask about their draping policies and techniques. I use what many call half diaper draping for the legs. This means I lift the client’s leg and pull part of the sheet under to create what looks and feels like an undergarment around the upper thigh. Depending the client’s boundaries, level of comfort, and presence/absence of underwear I will expose the glutes on that side as previously mentioned. Anyone at reception or front desk should be able to tell you the business’s policy on draping and use of sheets for the various massage modalities offered at the facility.   

 Wrap Up - These are not the only ways to determine if you are booking with a legitimate massage practice, but they are the most obvious. Research any business before you book. It is important for you to have the experience you want and pay for; whatever that may be. If you are looking for adult services, it is best to know if the facility you’ve booked will accommodate to avoid awkward and potentially legal consequences. It is also important to respect the practitioners who chose to operate legitimate therapeutic practices. I know I feel a serious sting when people assume or even imply I do anything but professional sessions. 

New Beginnings

I am so very excited to launch my new website. After spending a couple weeks tinkering away, and more time at the computer than I like, I am so proud of the end result. I hope this serves as a more authentic presentation of what clients can expect from their time in my office. Wishing you many blessings, and hopefully our paths cross soon!