When a person visits a massage therapist or has a therapist come to the home, there is a great deal of trust that is literally placed in the hands of the therapist. It should be safe to assume that the massage will be performed professionally, but this is not always the case. Over the past several years, hundreds of sexually assaults by massage therapists have been reported in the news.
However, many of these “therapists” are unlicensed and untrained. Many have a history of sexual assaults on customers that have been either unreported or ignored by the store owners. This puts innocent clients in a vulnerable position and in the unsupervised hands of a potential criminal.
Our sexual abuse lawyers will help you if you were sexually assaulted by a massage therapist. We have the skill, experience, and expertise to successfully pursue your claims and win you the highest possible settlement.
Are Massage Therapists Required to be Licensed in Michigan?
Massage therapists are required to be licensed in Michigan. There is a specific state statute that sets forth the has specific licensing massage therapist licensing requirements. A prospective massage therapist must complete the following training requirements to be licensed by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulation:
- 500 hours minimum at a program that has the state approved curriculum;
- 200 hours of instruction in massage theory, technique, and assessment;
- 125 hours instruction in body systems, to include kinesiology, anatomy, and physiology;
- 4 hours in business and practice management;
- 6 hours in ethics instruction;
- 40 hours in pathology coursework;
The remaining hours must be related to the practice of massage therapy, including at least 40 hours providing massage services at a student clinic. As you can see, this is a rigorous program that requires a lot of study, training, and practice.
Applicants are required to have finger-printed criminal background checks before a license will be issued by the state. Applicants must also pass a written examination and take continuing education classes. Licenses must be renewed every three years.
Most Common Locations for Therapeutic Massages
The most frequent locations for massage treatment are at the following, in order from the highest percentage to the lowest percentage:
- Health Spas
- Massage therapist office or private location
- Hotels, Cruise Ships, and Resorts
- The residence of the customer or colleague
- Massage therapy chain or franchise location
- Chiropractor’s office
- Physical therapists Office
- Physicians’ office or medical clinic
- Beauty Salons
- Alternative therapy clinics
- Workplace or office
- Health Clubs
The number of massage clinics, especially in strip mall storefronts, has increased by substantial numbers in the last ten years. Many clinics are a part of larger chains while others are independently owned at a single location. The clinics hold them out to the public as safe and secure with licensed massage therapists on staff.
When Does a Massage Become a Sexual Assault?
There are certain parts of the body involved in the specific types of massages. However, no massage technique involves the unlawful sexual touching of a person by a masseuse. A person is only consenting to a therapeutic massage and there is absolutely no recognized reason in the massage profession for a therapist to work in areas close to a person’s genitalia.
A person can instinctively tell when the hands of a masseuse are crossing the boundaries of a proper massage into a sexual assault. However, many victims are in a vulnerable position or are simply in too much shock to stop it from happening. Because there is no one else in the room, or often even in the area, it is difficult or even too scary to call out for help.
Many victims only decide to report the incident days, weeks, or even months later when they have had the ability to process what happened and get the courage to report it to the police authorities. Once it is reported, the police can begin an investigation into whether there is enough evidence to pursue criminal charges against the therapists. Many victims, however, never file a police report.
Michigan has strict criminal laws against sexual assaults. There are four degrees of sexual misconduct and classifications depend on the age of the victim, the part of the body that was assaulted, the use of force or coercion, and the manner of the assault. Criminal sentences can range from probation to lengthy prison terms.
Can I File a Lawsuit if I Was Sexually Assaulted During a Massage?
You can file a lawsuit and sue the therapist and the employer if you were sexually assaulted during a massage. It is not required that a victim file a police report or pursue criminal charges in order to pursue a civil lawsuit. Many times, the event occurred years before the victim has the strength and courage to contact a lawyer.
Lawsuits claiming sex assaults by a therapist seek different types of recoverable damages. Under Michigan law, settlement compensation payouts can include money for pain and suffering, fright and shock, embarrassment and humiliation, and emotional and psychological injuries. These assaults often affect a person’s relationships with others and their ability to form new relationships.
In addition, recoverable damages can include the cost of past, present, and future medical treatment and psychological care. Sex abuse victims often require consistent and lengthy treatment with a licensed mental health professional to deal with the emotional issues associated with being the victim of an assault.
How to Prove Liability in Massage Therapist Assault Case
In a civil lawsuit claiming a sexual assault against a therapist, the evidence must show an unlawful and improper touching of the victim. This touching can range from a simple “brushing” of an off-limits body part to groping and even penetration. The victim always knows when she or he has been sexually violated.
Because almost all of these assaults are unwitnessed, it becomes an issue of credibility between the victim and the therapist. Many times, there may be physical evidence of the assault or even complaints by the victim to family or friends shortly after it occurs. Or, there may be text exchanges or written complaints made to the therapist or the employer.
In all circumstances, both the police in a criminal matter and a jury in a civil matter must determine exactly what happened and if it amounted to a sexual assault, instead of just reaching the boundaries of a legitimate massage.
To hold the employer or business liable for the assault, it is helpful if there were previous complaints against the same therapist that were not acted upon in a timely manner. Also, if the therapist had a history of assaults or a criminal record before being hired by the current employer then this provides a basis for legal liability.
However, it is not necessary to prove that previous assaults occurred or that there was negligence in hiring the therapist to win a lawsuit against the employer. There are other legal theories and standards that form the basis for winning the case.
Notable Massage Therapist Sex Assault Lawsuits & Criminal Charges
Massage therapy sex assault lawsuit filings have increased dramatically over the last several years. Examples of some notable and newsworthy cases include:
- Claims by more than 180 women that Massage Envy therapists sexually assaulted them during therapy. Lawsuits have been filed against the nation’s largest massage therapy chain throughout California, Michigan, Arizona and other areas of the country.
- A Shelby Township therapist was charged with third-degree sexual conduct after allegations that he groped and forcibly molested a woman during a 90-minute massage session.
- A lawsuit against a Traverse City, Michigan massage therapist who was arrested on charges of criminal sexual assault relating to his actions during the massage of several women.
- Criminal charges were filed against a Grand Rapids massage therapist who was accused of third-degree sexual misconduct during a session.
- An Arizona jury awarded $ 4.9 million to two women who alleged they suffered psychological injuries due to sexual assaults by a therapist at the Namti Spa in Sedona, Arizona.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Filing a Sex Assault Lawsuit in Michigan?
Under Michigan Compiled Laws § 600.5805, there is a two-year deadline for filing a sexual assault lawsuit. For sexual abuse involving a minor, the period can be extended to the victim’s 28th birthday in certain situations. These deadlines also apply to the employer of the therapist.
For claims of negligence in hiring and supervision against the business owner, the time limit is three years to file a lawsuit. However, the longer time deadline might apply so it is important to contact our lawyers as soon as possible after the incident to preserve your right to pursue legal action.
Finding the Best Michigan Massage Therapist Sexual Abuse Attorney
Our sexual abuse civil lawsuit team has had tremendous success in winning large settlements for victims of sex assaults. We have won cases involving abuse by physicians, school bus drivers, assisted living residents, and therapists.
If you are looking for the best attorney for your case, call us now. We understand the fragile nature of your case and any apprehensions that you may have had in the past in contacting a lawyer. However, when you speak with our legal professionals you will be comfortable that you made the right decision for your case.
If you have a case, we will represent you under our No Fee Promise, which means there are no legal fees whatsoever unless you win a settlement. If your cases is unsuccessful for any reason, you owe us nothing!
Call today to tell us your story. Everything you say will be kept confidential.
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