Massage Therapy and Sexual Assault

I have just made the unfortunate discovery in the local paper today that a massage therapist I used to attend, has been accused of sexual assault and rape within his massage clinic and is currently going through the court system pleading as “not guilty”.  I’m feeling lots of mixed emotions about this.  When I was attending his clinic as a client, I perceived him as friendly and professional; a competent therapist, he helped my headaches and kept my body going through my first pregnancy.  To think that I or others may have potentially been exposed to sexual assault within that setting is horrendous.  His clinic room was isolated, he was the only practitioner there and having a massage leaves one’s body and mind very vulnerable.  This leads me to discuss my own professional stance on how I work to enable my clients to feel comfortable and not exposed within the massage setting.

Once you come into the clinic room, I check in with how you are and what you are requiring from your massage that day, I explain what items of clothing you can remove (for an hour long session it is usually everything except underpants so I can work on your legs as well, for sessions 30 – 45 minutes pants can usually be left on and top half of clothing is removed to work on the upper body), I explain how to lie on the table (either face down or side-lying), I explain to cover your body with the large towel once you are on the table and then I leave the room for you to undress.  After a few minutes, I come back, knock on the door and check that you are comfortable for me to come into the room, if you are ready, I come in, if you’re not, of course, I wait until you are.

Draping is a BIG deal.  Draping just means strategic placement of towels so that no private body parts are unnecessarily exposed. Generally in pregnancy massage in my clinic, clients will be in a side-lying position.  Enter what I have affectionately termed “the boob towel”.  This enables you to cover up your breasts while your back is exposed for massage, helping you to feel comfortable and somewhat clothed.  I never expose the buttocks during a treatment, I choose to massage them through the towel (butts get sore, especially during pregnancy, massage can really help to alleviate this).  Generally speaking, the bottom half of the body will remain draped while I work on the top half of the body and then when working on the bottom half of the body, the top half of the body is draped and then each individual leg is undraped to work on as required.

I encourage open dialogue as the massage proceeds – I’ll chat to you to make sure you’re OK and hope that you’ll trust me enough to verbally let me know if you’re not OK so I can amend the treatment accordingly, but I’ll also be looking for non-verbal cues that you are receiving the massage OK.  It’s a rare massage with me where there has been very little chat (unless it’s a postnatal, sleep deprived Mum who is often snoring by about 20 minutes in and that’s completely fine!).

Once the massage is finished, I cover your body completely with the towel and leave the room for you to get dressed and wobble your way back out to the waiting room where I will be waiting for you with a glass of water to then wish you well on your way.

There is no place for sexual assault in any setting,  especially where people openly and vulnerably entrust their semi-naked body to you for healing.  It is my deepest hope that healing is all you ever receive on anyone’s massage table.  Especially mine.

The Chill Mama Wellness Massage table set up at Nurture Health Group, Wodonga.

©Amy Vaccaro for Chill Mama Wellness, 11th August, 2018.


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