No Tolerance

By Leslie A. Young
[Rise Above]

“Enough!” “Never again.” “Not in our profession.” These are all responses used over the last few months to the BuzzFeed news reports in November 2017 about sexual assaults in massage sessions. At ABMP and Massage & Bodywork magazine, it’s our priority to uphold the profession, so we’re not shying away from the subject. These crimes have the potential to damage all of us who are dedicated to this field.
At first glance, sexual assault in this profession may seem like a problem that’s isolated to massage franchises, spas, or clinics, but it’s not. Sexual assault—by therapists or clients—can happen in any massage setting by any gender. This message was clear in the September/October 2017 feature by Ben Benjamin titled “Massage Therapy and Sexual Misconduct: Protecting Our Clients, Ourselves, and Our Profession” (page 56).
The November BuzzFeed report was about 180 specific occurrences at Massage Envy franchises. ABMP was contacted by the reporter prior to publication, and we provided resources about best practices and ethical guidelines in the massage therapy profession. Immediately after the news broke, we contacted Massage Envy in an effort to understand what the company was doing to combat the problem. Those conversations continue with Massage Envy and other concerned organizations.
The resulting backlash from therapists included calls for us (and others) to banish Massage Envy and not work with them—or others like them. But in so many ways, ours is a small profession. We cannot function responsibly as a leading association if we’re excluding entities within the profession. We can’t be part of solutions if we aren’t in the conversation. Neither can you. The easiest option is to ignore the tough talks and shun organizations; the tougher choice is to partner toward positive change and growth. We also have thousands of ABMP members who choose to work in Massage Envy outlets, and we honor and support them in their choices to do so.
So, we will continue to work to find plausible, practical, and impactful solutions. We encourage you to do the same. Use these negative scenarios as conversation starters. Use them to talk about why you chose massage therapy as a career. Use them to talk about your ABMP Code of Ethics. Use them to talk about the benefits of therapeutic massage. Rise above them; don’t shy away from them.
Try as we might, it’s doubtful we can obliterate this subject. There’s an evil, age-old, human factor at work. And we’re not alone, as evidenced in recent and ongoing accusations against everyone from entertainers and journalists to politicians and clergy. But each one of us can accept the responsibility to uphold our profession’s ethics.
There are more than 300,000 practicing massage therapists across the United States—march with them in spirit. We posted valuable information and talking points for you to use on Continue to turn to us and share your thoughts; we don’t want you to feel like you’re practicing in a vacuum. We will always support you as we work to fortify the profession.

Leslie A. Young, PhD, is ABMP’s vice president of communication and professional outreach. Contact her at