We at Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) are closely monitoring the fallout after the recent BuzzFeed investigative story “Hands Off” about sexual assault at Massage Envy franchise locations. We are deeply disturbed by the reported cases and in how Massage Envy reportedly handled them. The massage and bodywork treatment room should be safe space—a place for healing—and ABMP unequivocally denounces any violation of that space. Any time this happens in our profession is too frequent; repeated occurrences are unacceptable. We have contacted Massage Envy to better understand what happened, their plan for responding, and what changes they intend to make going forward.
In the weeks preceding the story’s release, we were contacted by BuzzFeed for a statement about the general concept of the article, and we provided a no-tolerance policy statement on behalf of our members. We also shared our September/October 2017 Massage & Bodywork magazine content talking about sexual misconduct in the massage profession (“Massage Therapy and Sexual Misconduct: Protecting Our Clients, Ourselves, and Our Profession”).1 Our intent was to educate BuzzFeed about our approach to eradicating the issue of sexual assault in the context of massage therapy.
Our organization is committed to helping educate employers about standards in the profession. It’s essential that massage employers have specific policies and procedures in place to support victims of inappropriate touch—whether client or therapist—and that they live up to those standards. It’s also important that staff members—especially in the more than 2,000 franchise massage businesses established in the past decade—are well-educated about how to respond to such claims. Anything less than a no-tolerance policy—in any massage setting—is insulting to legitimate massage therapists who work for these organizations and elsewhere. We are committed to helping businesses and individuals maintain a safe, professional therapeutic environment—for both clients and therapists.
To quote from the foreword to our Massage & Bodywork article, “We believe one of the best ways to curb sexual abuse in massage therapy is to sear the problem with bright light and constructive conversation throughout our community.” The BuzzFeed reporting provides a bright light, and a necessary reminder that protecting our clients, our profession, and ourselves is paramount.
As you may be aware, ABMP’s motto is expectmore, which is both an invitation and a challenge. We invite our members and prospective members to expect more than the status quo from any other association or insurance provider, and we challenge ourselves to deliver on that promise. We also expect more from others in this profession; we believe Massage Envy can, will, and must do better going forward. Each and every one of us must be part of the solution and accountable to each other.