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• Take all client complaints seriously, and meet personally or by phone with any client who lodges a complaint of a sexual nature. (Some clients understandably do not feel comfortable returning to the facility where the incident occurred and instead prefer to talk by phone.) Be aware that clients are usually in shock right after an abusive experience and may not be able to give you a full and accurate account of what occurred right away. Give clients the benefit of the doubt whenever they lodge a complaint, especially a complaint of a sexual nature. It is often difficult and uncomfortable for clients to speak about sexually inappropriate contact. Complaints of clear sexual misconduct (e.g., touching the breasts or genitals, making sexual comments) call for immediate suspension and investigation, followed—if the allegations prove to be true—by termination of employment and a report of the incident to the police and state massage board. More ambiguous complaints (e.g., a vague sense of discomfort with a therapist's draping or quality of touch) may be investigated using a mystery shopper or anonymous surveys, and may warrant conversations with and/or training of the therapist. If your spa receives more than one such complaint about a therapist, consider it a pattern. Do not delay in investigating and taking appropriate action. • Provide professional supervision by a qualified supervisor and ongoing training in ethics and boundaries. 6 Following these guidelines can prevent a great deal of pain and suffering. Only by being proactive and establishing clear boundaries can you fulfill your ethical, moral, and legal obligations to your clients. Therapists If you are a therapist, then this article has hopefully reinforced what you already know about safe and ethical practice. All of us in this profession have a responsibility not just to avoid intentional misconduct, but to take care to avoid even accidental boundary violations. We are also responsible for addressing any violations that come to our attention. If we see, hear, or experience troubling behavior from other therapists we encounter in our work or training, we need to speak up. Depending on the situation, it may be appropriate to check in directly with the person you're concerned about, or to speak to the leaders of the school, spa, or other environment where the incident occurred. In regulated jurisdictions, you may also have an obligation to report what you know to the regulatory body. Clients Client education is an important tool to putting a stop to sexual abuse and impropriety in the massage treatment room. Carefully and slowly explain directions about disrobing (especially for clients new to you and new to massage), make sure to check in with clients throughout your session, and ask if they have any questions before or after the massage. Consider posting "A Pledge to Clients" (found in the September/October 2017 digital edition of Massage & Bodywork) on your website to further reassure your clients of your ethical fortitude, and reiterate your professionalism at all turns. ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION Every time I hear of new cases of sexual abuse involving a massage therapist, I feel angry and deeply saddened, both for the clients and for the therapists; these perpetrators are unhealthy and disturbed individuals. I'm also frustrated to see many missed opportunities for prevention. Quite a few court cases I've been a part of have involved clear management negligence, where owners, managers, or supervisors failed to do simple background checks or to take complaints seriously and investigate them. To some of you working in the field, the precautions I advocate might sound a bit extreme. I assure you they are not. Erring on the side of caution protects not only our clients, but also the reputation of our profession as a whole. Massage therapy has been shown to have tremendous value in promoting health and well-being. Everyone has a right to enjoy these benefits without fear of sexual, physical, or emotional harm. Notes 1. US Department of Justice National Sex Offender Public Website, "Facts and Statistics," accessed July 2017, 2. David Finkelhor, et al., "The Lifetime Prevalence of Child Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault Assessed in Late Adolescence," Journal of Adolescent Health 329 (2014): 329–333. 3. Cherie Sohnen-Moe and Ben E. Benjamin, The Ethics of Touch, 2nd ed. (Tucson, AZ: Sohnen-Moe Associates, 2014): 94. 4. Ibid, 151–53. 5. You can contact a mystery shopper service to hire a person to visit your facility, receive a session with one or more of your therapists, and report back to you about the quality of their work, their level of professionalism, and any boundary violations that occurred. Alternatively, you can independently hire a person who has been in the field for a long time—especially as an instructor of massage, communication skills, or ethics at a local massage therapy school—to perform this service. 6. For details on important qualifications for supervisors, see Cherie Sohnen-Moe and Ben E. Benjamin, The Ethics of Touch, 2nd ed. (Tucson, AZ: Sohnen-Moe Associates, 2014): 290–91. Since 2004, Ben E. Benjamin, PhD, has worked as an expert witness in cases involving sexual abuse by massage therapists. He has authored many articles on professional ethics and coauthored The Ethics of Touch (Sohnen-Moe Associates, 2013). Benjamin has taught courses in ethics, boundaries, and communication to somatic therapists for more than 25 years. He can be contacted at or A B M P m e m b e r s e a r n F R E E C E a t w w w. a b m p . c o m / c e b y r e a d i n g M a s s a g e & B o d y w o r k m a g a z i n e 63

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