Cases of sex assault by massage therapists have been popping up around the country over the last few years. The rise in cases of sex assault by massage therapists is due to the increasing popularity of massage therapy spas which have opened in every state across the U.S., including Pennsylvania and New Jersey. These spas offer memberships, monthly deals and lower rates for massages. It’s not uncommon for a patron to pay $30 or $35 for an hour massage.
Like victims of sex assault by medical professionals such as doctors or nurses, victims of sex assault by massage therapists often blame themselves and don’t report the conduct. Victims often believe that no one would believe them, or they may believe that since it’s a “he-said-she-said” situation, it’s too difficult to pursue criminal charges or a civil lawsuit.
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What most victims don’t realize is that perpetrators of sexual assault often leave a trail of victims. By the time a predator commits an act of sex abuse, it’s highly likely that they have already committed similar conduct in the past. Predators escalate behavior over a period of time.
That’s why it is so important for victims of sex abuse or assault to speak out and report conduct to the business itself as well as to law enforcement. Doing so has two purposes. First, it sends a message to the perpetrator that a victim can and will report the conduct. Second, filing a report creates a paper trail.
Criminal Cases versus Civil Lawsuits
Victims of sexual abuse or assault by a massage therapist have legal rights in both the criminal and civil courts. First, victims who file police reports may be able to influence the prosecutor’s decision on a plea deal and sentencing recommendation. Oftentimes, in sex assault cases, prosecutors’ offices will take the victim’s preferences into account when handling the case. Most states have passed victims’ rights laws which specify rights in criminal cases, such as the right to speak at sentencing.
In addition to a criminal case, a victim of sex assault by a massage therapist has the legal right to file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator. What’s important to know about civil lawsuits is that they are completely independent of any criminal case. Even if a criminal case fails, a victim’s civil lawsuit can be successful. Also, civil lawsuits may also be filed against the employer, i.e., the spa or business where the assault occurred. The key in these cases is whether the business had any reason to anticipate the assault. In other words, were there prior reports of assault or abuse made against the massage therapist? If so, the spa business may be held liable.
In a civil lawsuit, a victim of sexual assault has the right to seek financial compensation for medical treatment, mental health treatment, lost wages, other financial losses and pain and suffering. The perpetrator and/or the employer may be ordered to pay a financial judgement to the victim.
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