Sexual abuse can happen in any space and when you least expect it. It can also occur when you are relaxing and having a massage. Having a sexual assault/abuse experience can be traumatic. Fortunately, you have the right to seek legal representation and take legal action against the massage therapist. Sex Crimes Attorney is devoted to sex crime civil cases, and all our attention is helping victims in California receive compensation for their losses. We can stand with you throughout the process, determine your damages and their value, collect evidence, negotiate with the defendant and represent you in court.
How Common are Spa Sexual Abuse Cases?
While many spa and massage parlor sexual abuse cases happen between female clientele and male massage therapists, it is worth noting that it can occur irrespective of your position (you can either be a client or employee) or gender.
The massage therapist-client relationship is based on mutual trust. Massage sexual abuse is the violation of the relationship where either party uses the relationship to induce or try inducing the other party in sexual conduct outside the scope of practice.
In other words, sexual abuse is any uninvited sexual advances, request for sexual favors, and physical and verbal inappropriate conduct that in any manner makes the victim feel uncomfortable and unsafe.
When it comes to spa sexual abuse, it can include:
Unwanted touch on any body part
Manipulation or penetration of the genitals
Requests for "extra service" or derogatory/ sexist remarks
Guests refusing to put on the provided undergarment
Guests exposing themselves
Sexual abuse complaints in spas and massage parlors have risen in recent years. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), an American is sexually abused every 69 seconds. Nine out of ten rape victims are women, and one out of every six women has been a victim of completed or attempted rape during her lifetime. Also, approximately 3% of men have experienced a completed or attempted rape in their lifetime. Spa sexual abuse claims happen throughout California, and the misconduct cuts across many franchise locations. While the franchise network permits firms to expand, the arrangement's nature lets franchises ignore sexual abuse prevention policies and escape unethical safety protocols.
At least 180 female clients have brought sexual assault lawsuits against Massage Envy Spas and its employees. According to a 2017 investigative report, plaintiffs had brought approximately 200 sexual assault reports against the franchisees and workers. Alleged victims filed state licensing board complaints, police reports, and lawsuits against the firm.
As a result, the Massage Envy corporate office introduced a new policy responding to the investigation. However, the firm continued shielding itself and did not require its owners to take any measure towards remedying or preventing sexual misconduct by its therapists. Most perpetrators kept their employment while the operators transferred some abusers to a different franchise location.
The company has been settling alleged sexual assault claims by male therapists since 2002. And in 2020, it ignored abuse complaints by its therapists by not requiring any franchisee to report the complaints to the police.
Please note that notwithstanding the policies to protect the organization, Massage Envy is still accountable for its massage therapist conduct and the failure of its franchisees to safeguard clients.
Why are Spa Sexual Abuse Cases Underreported?
Like most sexual assault cases, spa sexual abuse is underreported due to its sensitivity. It is also filled with feelings of embarrassment, guilt, and confusion.
As a spa or massage parlor client, you should sign a consent waiver. However, that does not mean you agree to unauthorized or unwanted groping, touching, or sexual advances.
A spa establishment is a space visited for a professional experience. Nevertheless, there must be legal repercussions when no policies protect you.
You ought to and can refuse any uncalled conduct and remove yourself from situations that make you uncomfortable, irrespective of whether you signed the consent waiver.
Steps to Take Following a Spa Sexual Abuse
Trauma originating from sexual abuse can affect your ability to seek assistance, treatment, or talk about your sexual abuse incident. Generally, recovery after sexual abuse focuses on teaching victims ways to regain a sense of independence, self-worth, value, and strength.
If you are unsure what steps to take, here is a comprehensive guide.
Seek Support and Safety
Safety must be your priority; seeking environmental safety, and physical stability should be your initial step. Whether you go to a medical care facility, police station, or your home, ensure you go where you feel safe and can have the emotional help you require. Since sexual abuse triggers psychological and emotional shock being close to a person you trust soothes your panic.
If you are uncomfortable calling a loved one, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-HOPE (4673). The organization will offer confidential support, advocate your rights, and crisis intervention.
Report the Matter to the Local Police Department
It is not a must that you report your sexual abuse incident to the massage parlor. Instead, you can directly go to the police department in the area where the sexual abuse occurred. However, addressing the issue with the establishment can strengthen the case against the spa if it turns out that the owner:
was aware of the therapist who was previously acted inappropriately, or
did not respond to the complaint appropriately.
Ensure you give the police officers full details of the incidence so that the masseuse/masseur can be held accountable. While the perpetrator might not face criminal charges, reporting the matter can cost them.
What to Anticipate When Reporting Your Sexual Assault Case
When determining whether to report the spa sexual abuse to a law enforcement agency, it is essential to understand what is involved in this process. It helps you make an informed decision.
The police officers, in this case, are impartial investigators. Once you file your report, they should gather, evaluate and process evidence. To assist the officers in collecting proof, do not:
Bath or take a shower
Dispose of or change your clothing
Comb or wash your hair
Take drugs or drink alcohol
While there are no time limits for reporting the abuse, the earlier you contact your local police department, the earlier they will gather the necessary evidence.
If you report your assault within seven days, the police will inquire whether you consent to a Sexual Assault Response Team examination. The SART nurse will conduct the exam. Should you agree, the nurse will document your injuries and gather forensic proof for the court process and police investigation.
Generally, there are three ways of reporting spa sexual abuse, namely:
Calling the police department
Visiting the police station
Going to a medical care facility
Seek Immediate Medical Attention
You can avoid seeking medical care after the abuse due to reasons. You are likely to feel angry, shocked, terrified, and ashamed following a massage parlor sexual abuse, and you do not want to experience that in the presence of strangers. However, consulting with a medical doctor can have many benefits, especially when filing a claim against the defendant.
The main objective of seeking immediate medical attention is ensuring that you are medically okay. Even when you do not have visible physical injuries, you could have sustained internal injuries that a physician should address immediately. Medical practitioners are proficient in offering compassionate care to sexual abuse survivors and providing the most appropriate care to assist them in relaxing. Moreover, they can test you for sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, and HIV.
It is also sometimes advisable to take emergency contraceptives to lower the risk of an unplanned pregnancy and medication to combat STIs.
If the massage therapist raped you, you could file a sexual assault rape kit. If you elect to bring a police report later, the kit will be kept frozen until you are ready. Please note that you should be tested for assault within 72 hours.
If you decide to report to the police, the SART nurse will contact a detective with the Sexual Assault Section. The law enforcer will visit you at the medical care facility. They will enquire about what transpired and can take recorded statements. If you are not ready to give statements, the officer will wait for you to visit the police station.
Finally, your doctor will advise you on follow-up medical care.
Report the Sexual Abuse to the California Massage Therapy Council
Ensure you submit a written report with details of all unwanted contact the massage therapist initiated. Recall that it is not your fault that the therapist touched you inappropriately and did not stop the abuse immediately. When you enter a massage parlor, you expect a calming experience from a trained expert.
Upon receiving your allegation, the California Massage Therapy Council will investigate the matter. The corporation can impose various remedies, including suspending the massage therapist's license and public reprimand. Also, sanctions against the therapist can become a public record.
Hire a Lawyer
You should also retain a lawyer. The legal counsel acts as a liaison between you, the prosecutor, the police, spa owner, and other interested parties, lowering the possibility of saying something that the defendant can use against you. They also focus on pursuing your compensation, permitting you to focus on your healing instead.
Keep all documents you have related to the date of the abuse. It can be your spa appointment details, spa membership info, phone call recordings, and receipts.
Your physician can also take samples of your pubic hair, blood, urine, and saliva from your rectum, genitals, and mouth. Typically, swabs are taken from the area from the perpetrator touched you.
Record What Took Place
Note down everything that occurred when you can still recall everything and the memory is fresh. Remember to include:
Name of the spa
Name of the massage therapist
Date and time of the incidence
Location of the massage parlor or spa
Find Coping Mechanisms
A typical coping mechanism is ignoring the abuse and acting like it did not happen. It is understandable since every sexual abuse victim is eager to resume their everyday lives and not be deemed victims. However, talking about and addressing the matter is essential in the recovery process.
Different survivors have different ways of handling the ordeal. Healing involves using productive and healthy coping tactics. You can consult a skilled psychological therapist who can help you work through your challenging feelings and emotions that will arise in many weeks, months, and even years later. It includes dialectical behavior therapy and cognitive behavior therapy.
Do things that make you feel at peace and happy. Self-care is different for everyone. It can be cooking for your family, playing music, taking walks, exercising, meditation, or reading.
File Your Sexual Abuse Claim
After your assault, you will wrestle with the idea of bringing a civil claim. Filing a claim comes with benefits and disadvantages that you should carefully consider.
First, it exposes the perpetrator and can ensure they do not harm others. Second, receiving financial compensation from the defendant for the damages suffered can be rewarding and brings a sense of justice.
Can Spa Sexual Abuse Victims File a Civil Lawsuit?
As a victim of spa sexual abuse, you are entitled to sue for damages. The laws neither require a conviction nor a police report for you to take legal action.
Like most sexual abuse or assault victims, you can be afraid of reporting the sex offense to the police. You fear that the police will blame you for the incident, or nobody will believe them.
Most California law enforcers treat sexual abuse victims with respect, dignity, and compassion. An investigation is essential even if criminal charges are not filed. It boosts your credibility in your civil case.
You can also be discouraged when you report the massage parlor sexual abuse and the District Attorney chooses not to file the criminal charges, have the case proceed to trial, or engage in plea bargaining for less severe charges. However, that does not mean you should not file your civil lawsuit.
When it comes to civil claims, the alleged victims are a party to their case. They can decide whether to settle the matter out of court or proceed to court. It is because the burden of proof in civil cases is lower.
In a criminal case, the prosecutor should establish the elements of the crime beyond any reasonable doubt. It can be challenging in sexual abuse cases where consent is hard to prove.
On the other hand, in your civil claim, you should only verify responsibility by a preponderance of the evidence. It means the jury should determine that the fact that the massage therapist sexually abused you is more likely than not.
That does not imply you will automatically prevail in your claim. However, it means the jury can find your harasser accountable if it believes 51% of your side of the story is accurate.
Additionally, it takes nine of the twelve jury members to agree the massage therapist is responsible.
Statute of Limitations to Bring Your Sexual Abuse Claim
You have two (2) years from when the spa sexual abuse occurred to take legal action. If you fail to bring your claim within the duration, you lose the right to receive compensation, even if your harasser is eventually convicted.
However, if California felony charges are filed and the perpetrator is convicted, you have a year from when the judgment is pronounced to bring a lawsuit, even if your suit would be timeframe-barred.
Liable Parties in Spa or Massage Parlor Sexual Assault Claim
Numerous parties can be held responsible for spa sexual abuse. They include:
The perpetrator — The defendant can face civil liability for the psychological and physical damages caused by their crime and criminal charges. A lawsuit can lead to revocation of professional license, monetary penalties, and incarceration.
The spa operator or owner — Establishments and their owners must ensure that their workers safely interact with clients. Operators and owners of these businesses can be held accountable for failing to protect clients from sexual abuse. The owner should impose preventive measures, policies, and guidelines that outline massage therapist-client boundaries. Typically, these policies include background checks when hiring potential workers, screening and monitoring employees, reporting all sexual abuse allegations, and thoroughly training staff on professional conduct.
Franchise — The leading franchise can be held responsible for negligence in large massage chains. For instance, Massage Envy faces liability for hiding sexual abuse complaints in its establishment from the public, licensing boards, and the police.
If the spa has previously received sexual misconduct complaints by its employee and continues to hire that masseuse/masseur, it can face civil consequences.
Why Hire an Experienced Lawyer?
You do not have to endure the devastating consequences of sexual abuse on your own. The legal team at Sex Crimes Attorney understands this is one of the most challenging moments and can stand with you throughout the case.
Here are the benefits of seeking legal representation:
Your Attorney Has Experience in Law
You should seek legal representation because you need a person who understands the legal proceedings and how California civil laws work.
Your lawyer will also collect the necessary evidence and submit the required paperwork timely.
Help with Investigation
Like many civil cases, your spa sexual abuse case will require investigation. The perpetrator is likely to deny the allegations, so you should have evidence that strengthens your case. It would help if your legal counsel investigated your case because you might not have adequate resources to retain an independent investigator. Access to expert witnesses increases the possibility of an award or a settlement.
Typically, skilled lawyers who handle spa sexual assault claims work on a contingency fee basis. That means you do not have to pay any fee until you receive a settlement.
Stands with You Throughout the Devastating Moment
When you retain an attorney, you are also gaining a support network. You require a person on your side to battle any party that might stand in your way of seeking justice for the sexual assault.
Your lawyer understands what you are going through. They also know that you require and deserve aggressive legal representation, especially if the perpetrator was not prosecuted or convicted. While financial compensation cannot make up for the abuse, it helps hold the defendant liable for their conduct meaningfully.
Value Your Civil Claim
Determining the actual value of your spa sexual abuse claim can be complicated. On top of economic losses already incurred, like medical expenses and lost income, you will want to claim expected future costs from sexual abuse. For instance, if the abuse led to trauma, you require money to pay for your psychological counseling and therapy.
Damages Awarded in Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
Sexual abuse is a horrendous experience to endure. After the incident, it can be challenging for you to concentrate on anything other than your healing.
Even if the sex crime results in a conviction, you will find yourself burdened by losses unsettled by the criminal justice process. Although a criminal process provides you and your family with a level of satisfaction and justice, it is not enough.
The goal of filing a civil claim against the massage therapist is to receive financial compensation. The compensation serves two functions, namely:
Offer you recovery for the losses incurred
Punish the defendant
Common damages awarded in California sexual assault lawsuits include:
Cost of psychological counseling and rehabilitation
Lost earning capacity
Loss of life enjoyment
Loss of consortium if you no longer offer moral support, intimacy, and companion to your loved ones
The law also allows you to receive punitive damages if you can establish the defendant acted egregiously.
Find a Massage Therapist Sexual Abuse Attorney Near Me
A massage client is susceptible to sexual abuse while lying facing down in a room alone with the massage therapist. Usually, the client thinks they are in a secure and professional space until the masseuse/masseur behaves illegally. After being sexually abused in a spa, you will feel afraid, scared, and guilty. You need to know that you have rights and did not deserve this. There are no excuses for sexual abuse, and the only individual you should hold accountable is the perpetrator, alongside the spa if it enabled the assault to occur. The experienced legal team at Sex Crimes Attorney can assist you in finding your voice. We have previously assisted hundreds of survivors in California in pursuing the compensation and justice they need to recover and can help you as well. Please call us at 888-666-8480 to schedule your confidential case consultation.