Massage Therapist Sexual Harassment
As a massage therapist, sexual harassment is a growing concern. Furthermore, with the development of the #metoo movement, sexual assault is a hot topic for the therapist and their clients. Work is work they say. We are all governed by a system of beliefs and morals. However, some careers pose threats to our moral fabric.
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For instance, the massage profession. Because, not once have we heard of sexual harassment by those we entrust with our bodies for massage. One stern warning to those in this risky profession: avoid sexual harassment as a licensed massage therapist.
Above all, it always comes back to haunt you, both morally and legally. Read on to learn more of establishing your boundaries and how to recognize sexual harassment as a licensed massage therapist.
Massage Therapist Sexual Harassment Laws
As a massage therapist, you need to be extra cautious when working with clients. You do not know your client’s thoughts in the course of your body work. Hence, individuals have set different standards for themselves. Moreover, to be on the safe side, have a talk with the client before proceeding with your assignment and keep notes for your records and protection.
Furthermore, massage therapists may get exposed to sexual harassment by their clients. Sexual harassment in the massage industry is a two way street.
1. Client Misconduct Law
Clients value their bodies. Most have reserved their sexual parts for their mates alone. Touching these crucial parts will land you in trouble. Whether the touch was intentional or accidental, you must know how to react and stay professional.
It is not just about touch. Certain actions may also cause trouble. Be mindful of your body language.
Even more, we all know when someone is trying to flirt with us. Be sure not to land yourself into trouble when using body language. Any slight signs of sexual advances made to a client may cause legal problems.
Most noteworthy, sexual misconduct consequences are dire. It may mean revocation of your hard earned massage license, as well as, career disruption until proven innocent. You do not want your ambitious career to end prematurely. Therefore, follow the ethics and communication rules set by the AMTA and ABMP associations, as well as, training from massage school.
In comparison to sexual misconduct, harassment is excessive. While the same terms may be expressed in similar actions, the intent is the difference.
Certainly, sexual misconduct culprits may not have an intention to touch a client inappropriately. Although, not entirely, some intend to, but act as if it was accidental.
Sexual Harassment involves using words or actions with sexual content. Making a client, forcefully or willingly, sexually aroused is not allowable. For the reason that, it is a breach of contract.
First of all, touch, gestures, sexual behavior, and words all contribute to sexual harassment. This means, you ought to watch your words. Adhere to limitations and cautions given by the client. Hence, whichever body part the client warns you against, please listen and avoid that area.
When it gets to the courts, it will be your client’s word against you. The case may not end well for you. Be sure of an unfavorable decision. In most instances, clients win these cases.
The safest way to play is avoid mentioning sexual words. Stick to massaging. It may be more serious if the client is a regular patient. Mostly, more charges might be filed against you.
3. Massage Therapist Employment Rights
Mostly, practicing massage can be done in different ways. Most therapists are employed. Likewise, the employers pay them based on a mutual agreement.
First of all, as a therapist, you have a right to enjoy all the privileges your employer offers. Anything short of that means your rights are being infringed. Hence, that gives you the power to square things out in a court of law.
Even more, some employers have no issue settling, once you raise a factual and well documented claim. That means, you should try an out of court settlement before resolving to go to the court. As a result, you should only move to court when a disagreement ensues.
4. Client Harassment
Sexual harassment is a two-way thing. It may be perpetuated by a client or the licensed massage therapist. Both cases are punishable by law.
It is always safe to discuss with your client what he/she should expect and utilize intake forms and SOAP notes for documentation and protection. As they would wish you to respect their bodies, remind them to mind you. Any bad behavior should not be kindly taken.
Sexual harassment is a serious offense that deserves being knowledgeable as a therapist and of the law.
Consequently, it would be unfair to raise a false claim. It is unethical to accuse a client. It may backfire on you and come with unfavorable consequences.
Make sure you report any sexual harassment case. Moreover, this will help your employer follow up with the case and allow the law take its course. In the end, you may be compensated fully and the culprit persecuted.
Identify Sexual Misconduct
Our bodies are super sensitive especially to the opposite sex. As a result, this fact makes massaging a risky activity. Some clients will take advantage of that. Hence, this is the reason you need to be aware of what is acceptable and what is not. Besides, you have to know how to react in case your rights are violated.
Handling parts of the opposite sex is likely to cause sexual reactions.
Only stay in a massage session for as long as you are comfortable. Keep engaging your client throughout the session and make it clear it is work and nothing more. At first, clients play professional and act disciplined. The notorious ones will start making silent moves.
When you realize a client is overreacting when working on a certain body part, tone down. Keeping on will lead to other things. In most cases, athletes require you to focus on their thighs because of the nature of their profession.
Above all, take caution when a non-athlete insists on thigh work. Knowledge of who needs what is critical in identifying ill motivated clients. Clients will simulate sexual activities without telling you anything. This they do with the hope of turning you on. Certainly, do not fall for the trap.
Ask your client to stop misbehaving
Above all, the moment you feel something is not right, stop there. Ask the client to behave or you will never handle him/her again. Your firmness is the only way to protect yourself. Furthermore, if it persists, you have a right to terminate the session.
However, as long as the client has not touched you, he/she will be excused from sexual assault. It is also good not to be oversensitive. Even more, clients will naturally react to your touch. After that, it only gets out of hand if he/she focuses on his/her sexual desires instead of the massage.
Recognize Sexual Mind games
You must be at the top of your game as a massage therapist. Furthermore, clients will try all sorts of means to lure you into their sexual desires and fantasies. Whenever they smell danger, they will deny and refrain like nothing happened
Hence, after making you get closer, most clients will start uttering explicit sexual words. While most don’t use explicit words, their goal remains to get to you sexually. Whenever these clones realize you are problematic, they will change the topic immediately.
Be at your best mindset as a massage therapist
Patience is a skill mastered by pro predators. A client will wait until you are done. Then, he/she will ask for explicit favors. At this point, you will receive the funniest of requests. This is the time you need to be at your best mindset and refrain. Anything might happen.
Rarely will a client grab you and force you to do something. That would amount to assault. Instead they will tactfully lead you into temptation. You should record all weird behaviors your clients portray. This way, you can protect yourself in the future and your colleagues too.
To play safe, you should do daily reports of your encounters with clients. The management will be able to pick extreme cases and flag insensitive clients. This also helps you keep your judgment in check.
You will be prepared to handle cases as they occur. Besides, you will deal well with individual cases. This means not overreacting and not losing your sensitivity at the same time.
Responding to Massage Therapist Sexual Harassment
Different circumstances call for different responses. One thing you should not do is brush off an assault. Most important, do not ignore or keep quiet on sexual harassment. Likewise, that only encourages the harasser to keep on with their bad character.
Having your responses ready is a good start to an effective fight against sexual harassment. Above all, doing the following will keep you out of trouble.
- Stay calm, be confident, and speak assertively
Moreover, use confidence as a defense mechanism. Confidence stops your harasser from throwing sexual jabs at you. Most noteworthy, calmness keeps the assaulter wondering what you can do. Hence, the calmer you stay the more the predator withdraws his/her bad intentions.
- Stay focused as a massage therapist
Even more, clients skillfully try to get your focus off balance. They use questions, threats, guerilla tactics, blackmail and other techniques to get you. Avoiding such backdoor techniques will protect you. Moreover, any type of response will make you lose your focus. A persisting client should be warned. Likewise, failure to rectify his/her actions should prompt you to terminate the session.
- Avoid guilt trapping
First of all, you are not obliged to answer clients’ questions. Your work there is doing the massage and leaving when you are done. The moment you start a verbal engagement; you will likely be guilt-trapped. Hence, play safe by doing your work and pack it up the moment you are done with your part of the client-therapist session.
- Maintain a firm body language
Strongly express yourself. Above all, maintain eye contact and let the client know you are speaking to them with authority. That way, your message will be taken more seriously. Consequently, he/she is likely to stop the sexual harassment and respect your authority.
Just Say No to Sexual Harassment
The following statements have proven effective in stopping sexual harassers from victimizing you.
- “Touching me or making sexual sounds amounts to sexual harassment. We do not do that here. Doing this will cause trouble,” you may say. After issuing the statement, make it clear it is not a threat. Insist on the dire consequences of any form of sexual misconduct.
- Remember your client also has rights. Accusing him/her of sexual misconduct when in real sense he was not misbehaving may cause trouble. In cases where you are not sure of what to do, issue your statement but maintain neutrality. Moreover, this is the point where general statements work effectively. Even more, express your dissatisfaction and remind the client of your terms. If you probably misunderstood your client’s natural reaction, do not feel sorry but respectfully ask to be pardoned.
- Above all, you are in control. You are the massage therapist and not the client. Make that clear. You should be the one pulling the strings in that room as the practitioner. When the client loses direction, bring him/her back on track. Tell him/her what you want. Most important, if you dislike his/her movements, tell them to stop! If they don’t, you may stop the session. For stubborn cases, be consistent with your warnings. Likewise, do not assume. Only stop with the threats when the client behaves again.
- Mostly, avoid arguing with the client but attack the customer’s bad behavior. Remember the clients too has their own rights. While you may be justified to report sexual assault, the client may accuse you of overreaction and abuse. Hence, that may turn the case against you. Clients can be cunning sometimes. That is why when under siege, they will pick up anything you say and use it against you. Likewise, attacking the client’s bad manners gives you the power to hold on to the case. This way, the customer may be held accountable and face dire consequences of their actions.
- Maintaining mannerism, sternly, is another great strategy. Hence, a direct attack would sound rude. React on every act of misconduct from the client. For instance, you may exclaim, “pardon me!” When touched inappropriately. First of all, ask the client if he is confusing you with someone else. Do this in astonishment to add weight to your words. You can be sure your client will behave henceforth. If they don’t, issue more stern warnings accompanied with actions.
Sexual Harassment from Employees
First of all, sexual harassment may come from any source. While clients are the most notorious culprits, your fellow employees too may harass you. When it comes to colleagues, many times you may be tempted to sweep it under the carpet. However, it may get worse especially if you are unable to tell when sexual misconduct is being perpetuated against you.
Even more, work place relationships can be stressful sometime. Any sexual moves by your colleague without your consent is sexual harassment. Remember, most work places do not entertain colleague relationships. Furthermore, that is why you need to be extra careful when dealing with some of your workmates.
Also, often times, massage therapists have a great sexual appeal. This irresistible temptation may be problematic when not well handled. As colleagues, you have the freedom to share a work space. Not once will you find your colleague in compromising situations. Resist the temptation to engage in sexual behaviors.
Colleagues Sexual Harassment
Likewise, think about it this way. Let’s say you are working for an employer who does not entertain colleague sexual relations. Then, you go ahead and engage in the unwanted behavior. Upon realizing you will both lose your jobs, your colleague decides to pull up a show.
He/she decides to turn it on you. The workmate accuses you of sexual assault to save his/her job. He/she does it so well that the management ends up believing them. So, you end up losing your job and facing the full force of the law. A double loss.
Most important, while it may seem impossible, it happens. Sexual harassment accusations can be made against you. This may come from a client, colleague or even your boss, if you are employed. It is therefore important to be cautious to avoid carrying someone else’s burden. It can be painful sometimes. But, you cannot cry over spilt milk.
Sexual Harassment Follow Ups
Sexual harassment comes with different levels of severity. It may range from use of sexual terms to actual rape. Minor sexual harassment can be left for the management to square things out. Likewise, only stop when justice is served.
For severe cases, keep in mind you will be part of the investigations. The police will be involved and other parties of interest. It will cost you time, energy and money. That is why you cannot spare your predator.
Sexual Harassment Liability Insurance
Ensure you give the police all the details they need. This gives your victimizer no room to escape. Regardless how good his/her attorney, your evidence should be so strong to neutralize their prowess. Besides, you need to get yourself a seasoned lawyer to argue your case for you. Above all, a good liability insurance policy will aid you in hiring counsel if you are accused.
All through the hearings, your employer should support you. Things may be more difficult if you are a freelance massage therapist. Most noteworthy, many massage therapist organizations offer moral and financial support. The law does not have mercy on sexual violators. Rapists get maximum sentences with zero chances of success in appeals. Consequently, you may be compensated enough to cover for the emotional damages you went through.
No Sympathy for Sexual Assault
The reverse is true. You dare assault your client at your own risk. Your employer will gladly hand you over to the authority. No one sympathizes with sexual assaulters.
After investigations have been done, hopefully you will be found innocent. If found guilty, you will not be spared. A fine and jail service will be served to you raw. You will be required to compensate the client for the damages before the start of your jail term. For extreme sexual harassment cases, expect maximum sentence. Therefore, always maintain discipline and professionalism, to avoid prematurely finishing your career.
What is not massage therapist sexual harassment?
It is hard to distinguish what is and what is not sexual harassment. Although, in some cases it is obvious. For instance, touching someone inappropriately in a forbidden area, is a sure case of sexual violation. Similarly, it may not qualify as a sexual harassment classification if:
- It is out of mutual consent
For as long as it was a mutual agreement, it may not be considered as a case of sexual harassment. Therefore, as a massage therapist, a client will not be liable for sexual assault if you said yes to their advancements.
That is why you have to be keen always. Not complaining may be interpreted by the client as consenting to their wishes. To avoid such scenarios, be quick to decline client advances as they come up. Also, assuming or laughing at it may be misunderstood.
You may disagree with a client. Perhaps to them a certain action is not a big deal. For you, that same action might be sexually offensive. Before raising any accusations, investigate on the client’s motive.
Speak to the client before accusations
First of all, what if the previous therapist had no problem giving him/her the service you term disgusting? Different clients have been served by different therapists. Therefore, before escalating any issue, speak to the client.
Settle your differences first. After speaking to the client, feel free to report if the client does not change. Before engaging be accommodating and expect differences.
Different employees have been raised in different environments. Besides, various workplaces have varying workplace traditions. This does not mean any form of sexual misconduct is allowable.
Be firm but accommodative. Team play is critical. Belonging to a team protects you to some extent. Being too close to colleagues too may put you at risk of being sexually harassed.
Massage Therapist Sexual Harassment Statistics
Most noteworthy, it is good to recognize sexual harassment does not face massage therapists only. Although, sexual assault cases are highest in the massage industry due to the nature of the job.
According to research, since 1997, the ratio of male to female cases of assault has been 1:6. This means, for every one case of a man harassed reported, 6 women cases were filed. This is for all kind of sexual harassment.
Prevent Massage Therapist Sexual Harassment
It is surprising that on average, only 8% of these cases had reasonable causes. The rest had no grounds or was an overreaction from the alleged victim. That is why it is important to have firm evidence and proof before pursuing your case.
Furthermore, 2001 recorded the highest number of conciliations at 3.4%. This is according to EEOC’s charge master analysis. The number is significantly low. Above all, this shows, preventing an assault is better than pursuing the predator and seeking compensation. Therefore, stay woke and stop sexual harassment at the source if you can.
Also, the courts and lawyers will try settle with you, but the damage will already be done. Therefore, as you massage that client be as ruthless as possible to the bad mannered ones. Keep in mind the court cannot undo any injustice.
Employee Sexual Harassment
Managers and senior company employees are targets of sexual harassment suits. Therefore, as a therapist in a senior position, be keen. Accusations will follow you from all directions. In addition, the alleged victims will do this driven by different motives.
Train yourself to deal with petty cases. Most important, report extreme cases and notorious clients. However, some customers coming for massage therapy will throw sexual jabs at you. Therefore, stop immediately to warn them.
Such clients will never bother you again. Moreover, in cases like that, you may let that pass. Besides, you should mark clients that love to make your job hard. However, the next time they appear, simply avoid them.
Inform Colleagues of Sexual Harassment
Furthermore, inform your colleagues too. It is important for them to be aware for their own safety. If a client misbehaves, then later rectifies his/her actions, you may forgive them. Give them another chance. Above all, monitor their actions and motives.
Likewise, if the client never repeats the mistake, give them a clean bill of health. In fact, the best thing to do is have a rating system. Give each client a rating and let your colleagues see. Above all, your work mates too should rate the customers they handle. This way, you will watch over each other’s backs.
As a result, you should avoid sexual harassment as a licensed massage therapist. Massage therapist sexual harassment laws are ruthless and may lead to the cancelation of your license and your career. In other words, because cases of massage therapist sexual harassment are on the rise, you may be the culprit or victim. None of this is favorable.
Knowing your rights is important in self-protection. Above all, many lawsuits have been filed against Massage Envy the largest franchise for the massage industry. Most important, the #metoo movement is putting many people behind bars from a he said/she said trial conviction. Likewise, always be aware and prepared while practicing on clients. Besides, understanding clients have rights should guide you. Moreover, maintain a good work ethic and everything will be fine.
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