Massage & Bodywork

MARCH | APRIL 2020

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54 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k m a r c h / a p r i l 2 0 2 0 CLIENTS CROSSING BOUNDARIES in the Treatment Room By Ben E. Benjamin, PhD clients also behave inappropriately and ask for sexual acts from their therapist. Predatory sexual behavior by the client is a serious issue and not something you should ignore or try to manage on your own. You are entitled to work in an environment free of sexual abuse. If violations happen, you have the right to make yourself safe, remove yourself from the situation, and take all available steps to have the abuser reported and made responsible for their actions. You are not alone, and you are not powerless. It is the responsibility of clinic and spa owners, industry leaders, and educators to expose these issues and devise ways to protect massage therapists from this mistreatment. One of the principle challenges to reaching this goal is that many people in power across our country are condoning and/or committing sexual harassment and assault. So it becomes particularly challenging to avoid replicating this in a given field, like massage therapy. This means it is all the more important for us to set clear boundaries in our field and support all our practitioners. For you to be empowered when addressing any level of sexual harassment, you need an understanding of how you can respond. Here is a compilation of personal accounts shared by currently practicing massage therapists that demonstrate different types of boundary crossings or sexual assault in the treatment room, followed by a brief discussion of potential effects, interventions, and prevention techniques. Thanks to the women of the #MeToo movement, who have courageously exposed rampant sexual harassment and assault, our society is being forced to confront this upsetting reality and change it for future generations. The massage treatment room is a microcosm of the greater society, so we sadly find the same types of issues there. Much like in the greater community, more attention needs to be paid to this phenomenon in the field of massage. We typically focus on bad-apple therapists abusing clients, but it happens in reverse quite frequently. Almost every massage therapist, including myself, has at least one story of such harassment. Typically, the offenders are male clients who feel entitled to be abusive by saying inappropriate things, touching their therapist, or breaching social and physical boundaries in myriad other ways. While rarer, sometimes female

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