April – Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Posted on April 2, 2013 By

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

While I’m not going to get into political issues, I’m pretty sure that we can all agree that sexual assault is a bad thing, and that it ought to be stopped.  We can likely also all agree that victims of sexual assault should not be denied services they need just because they can’t afford them.

I got to thinking — what can I do to make a difference?  How can I help?  And, more significantly, what can I, as a massage therapist, do?  And, how can I encourage others to help?

Here’s what I’m doing:  Throughout the month of April, I will donate a portion of my massage fees to our local Rape Crisis Center (R.A.C.E.S. – which stands for Rape Advocacy, Counseling & Education Services).  This center provides counseling services, and crisis services, but also provides all sorts of education services that help teach young people (from kindergarten up) about ways to avoid sexual assault – both to avoid becoming a victim, and to re-think their actions so that they’re less likely to be perpetrators.  They do phenomenal work on a shoe-string budget.

What will you do?

That’s entirely up to you, but if you’re in my area, one thing you can do is spoil yourself –
By getting a massage, you can help support those who work tirelessly to prevent sexual assault, and to offer help to it’s victims!

At this point you may be asking why I’m writing about Sexual Assault Awareness on a Massage Blog?  Well, perhaps it’s because there are still countless people who don’t recognize massage as healthcare, but instead think of massage therapists as people to whom they can make inappropriate propositions.

Perhaps it’s because a couple of months ago, a new-to-me male client tried to expose himself to me by “adjusting” the sheet that draped him so that he could “feel the air on his skin”.  I was strong enough to draw the line, replace the sheet, and let him know that un-draping himself was not acceptable.  I was okay.  I was able to think fast on my feet and defend my boundaries without freaking out …. and without letting him push me past my comfort zone.

But

Not every young massage therapist would have been.

Even worse, he had already pushed the line when his only feedback included remarking on how good the massage felt only when I worked on or near his glutes.  I have no idea how far he would have pushed things if I had not been able to define my boundaries firmly and promptly.

In this case, I was able to define my boundaries, and finish the massage.  Afterwards, I told him that I was “sure” he hadn’t “intended to do anything inappropriate”, it had made me uncomfortable that he only expressed appreciation for my work when I was working on his glutes, and that it not only made me uncomfortable but that it violated professional standards for him to attempt to remove the draping required by my state license.  He was polite.  I was polite.  Face was saved by all — but he’s never come back for another massage (which is okay by me).

I consider myself lucky.  The result could have been very different.  He could just as easily have continued “adjusting” his sheet.  (I would have left the massage room and told him to get dressed).  He could have grabbed my hands and tried to place them in inappropriate places.  I’ve heard stories about massage therapists who have experienced that and worse.

THAT is why I’m writing about Sexual Assault Awareness Month on a massage blog.

As long as people think of massage as a prelude to, or a substitute for, sexual activity — and are willing to push boundaries this way, massage therapists are at risk.  And the people who are willing to push that boundary are more likely than others to try to push other boundaries — touching their therapists, or ….

What will YOU do?

Broader Issues


  1. Dempsey says:

    This is an awesome blog. I’m happy that you shared your experience and how you professionally resolved the issue. I think it would have even been ok to have just left the room. So many people would try to just work around something like that and that’s when the sexual predictor realizes that they have a potential victim. But little things like stopping something before it develops goes a long way, and could possibly prevent a lot of these domestic issues from happening.
    It’s funny because I was wondering how you where going to tie the two(massage & sexual assault) together, and you really brought them together well. Great job with the blog and your contribution to the cause.

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