Ten Things that Should NOT Happen During your Massage:

Tips to Stay Safe

Ashley Vaughn - Sexual Abuse Assault Attorney

By: Ashley L. Vaughn, Partner at Dumas & Vaughn, LLC

Benefits of massage therapy

Massage therapy is an excellent form of self-care and relaxation.  It has numerous therapeutic, psychological, and physical benefits.  Frankly, massages are usually wonderful, and in our stressful world, we all need more massages in our lives.  There are tons of different types of massages, from Swedish to deep tissue to reflexology, and it is important to find a style and therapist that work best for you, your needs, and your comfort level.

With benefits come risk

Unfortunately, getting a massage is also not free of risk.  The conditions that give rise to a good massage can also create the perfect environment for sexual assault to occur.  Massages usually occur in small, dark rooms, where a client has reduced visibility and mobility.  The only people in the room are the massage therapist (often a stranger) and the client.  The client is usually mostly or completely unclothed.  The only covering a client has is a thin sheet.  There are no witnesses or cameras, so what happens in the room will largely boil down to the client’s story versus the massage therapist’s story.  To get a massage is to put yourself in an incredibly vulnerable position, requiring you to place a large amount of trust in the massage therapist.  When a massage therapist exploits that vulnerability and violates that trust, the client can suffer significant and lasting harm.

Common symptoms can include PTSD, anxiety, depression, shame, guilt, fear, hypervigilance, increased body tension and pain, and avoidance.  Victims may avoid getting much-needed massages or other therapeutic services in the future, leading to increased injury and pain, for fear that they will be victimized again.

At Dumas & Vaughn, we are seeing an increasing number of people who have been the victims of massage therapist sexual assault.  In recent years especially, this seems to be a plague that is afflicting our society with increasing frequency.

Ten things that should NOT happen during your massage

The line between appropriate touching and non-appropriate touching during a massage can sometimes be blurred, especially for people who do not get massages often.  Massage therapy clients may not know what to expect, so may be reluctant to speak up when something seems wrong.  Nevertheless, there are ten clear behaviors that should NOT happen during your massage:

  1. The massage therapist should not pressure you to give consent to touch certain areas of your body.  They should discuss with you beforehand your areas of pain and discomfort and what areas of your body you consent to them touching.
  2. The massage therapist should not pressure you to remove more clothing than you are comfortable removing. The massage therapist should instruct you to unclothe to your comfort level.  There is no requirement that you have to be nude during a massage.  How much clothing you remove is your choice.
  3. The massage therapist should not touch your breasts or groin area without you giving them explicit permission to do so. Most forms of massage therapy do not include these areas.
  4. The massage therapist should not touch areas that you have explicitly requested that they avoid.
  5. Your breasts and groin area should not be exposed during the massage. Proper draping of the sheet over your body during the massage is very important.  The drape is there for your comfort and safety.
  6. The massage therapist should not ask you to touch any parts of their body during the massage, except maybe their hands if necessary.
  7. The massage therapist should not remain in the room while you disrobe. 
  8. There should be no cameras or recording devices in the massage room.
  9. A massage therapist’s groin or crotch area should not come in contact with your body repeatedly during a massage, and they should position the table at a height to avoid that kind of contact.  Sometimes, accidental conduct is unavoidable, but it should not happen repeatedly.
  10. The massage therapist should not ask you to meet them at locations other than the spa or office.  Be wary if they offer to give you private massages at their home, away from their established place of employment.

Other warning signs

In addition to these ten things that should not happen during your massage, there are also other behaviors that might seem less explicit, but are warning signs of potential misconduct or exploitation:

  1. Asking you personal questions about your romantic or intimate life, unless you have previously established that this type of conversation is ok. They should not ask questions that make you feel uncomfortable.
  2. Asking you to support other endeavors financially.
  3. Contacting you by phone or text for reasons other than to schedule appointments, discuss billing, or other purely professional reasons.
  4. “Over-sharing” about details of their personal life or asking you for help with personal issues
  5. Long periods of seeming inactivity, where you cannot observe their hands, may be a sign of sexual conduct.
  6. Asking to take your photo or a videorecording.

If any of things happen during your massage, you are completely within your rights to ask questions, tell the therapist to stop that conduct or tell them you are uncomfortable, end the session, or talk to their supervisor.  If you have been sexually assaulted, you can report the assault to the appropriate licensing board for your state (even anonymously) and to law enforcement.  You can also contact an attorney to discuss your options.  All massage therapists in Oregon must be licensed, and comply with state laws, regulations, and ethical rules.

We can help.

At Dumas & Vaughn, we have handled many massage therapist sexual abuse cases and achieved successful results and monetary compensation for our clients.  We are skilled at handling investigations into massage therapist sexual abuse cases and talking our clients through their various options, from reporting the misconduct to licensing boards, reporting to the police, and bringing a civil claim.

If you been the victim of sexual assault by a massage therapist, or question whether you have been assaulted, and would like to discuss your legal options, please contact us for a free consultation.  All communications are completely confidential.  We will handle your inquiry with compassion and sensitivity.  As a boutique law firm in the Pacific NW, we maintain a manageable caseload so that we can provide personalized, detailed attention to each case and client.


The information in this post is provided for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact a qualified attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed from this post nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.

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