AP NEWS

Massage therapists respond to recent prostitution arrests

March 4, 2019

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — Licensed massage therapists say charges against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and others for allegedly soliciting prostitutes at a spa in Florida hasn’t adversely affected them, but it has somewhat tarnished the legitimate massage therapy field.

“Whether it’s a high-profile person like Kraft or any time you see in the news that a place got shut down for illicit massage, that gives a bad name to the field,” said Steve Dozois, a licensed massage therapist and director of massage therapy at Worcester Fitness. “It affects the massage field for people doing it legitimately, trying to help people feel better.”

Mr. Dozios, who primarily does sports massage, said the aftermath of the Florida matter can affect both men and women in the massage therapy profession.

“It really negatively affects female therapists doing things legitimately and someone books a massage, wanting or expecting more. And that puts them (the therapist) in an unsafe, awkward and uncomfortable position,” Mr. Dozios said. “And for the male therapist, there might be people out there who won’t get a massage ... because they are afraid that somebody is going to touch them inappropriately.”

Robin Kirkorian is a licensed massage therapist who provides oncology massages to cancer patients at the St. Vincent Cancer and Wellness Center. She also volunteers at PinkHippy, a holistic support network for breast cancer patients, survivors and their families.

“It’s disheartening, especially when I was listening to the radio this week and they were laughing about it,” Ms. Kirkorian said. “We are legitimate professionals. And the jokes about the “happy ending” and all that is not only unprofessional. It hurts. It’s very offensive.”

Ms. Kirkorian said licensed massage therapists are dedicated to helping people, but participants in the alleged sex work sting in Florida were doing the opposite.

“We are there to provide a safe place for the client and relax them or help them with their injury,” she said. “These people doing this (prostitution and human trafficking), their intentions are not what a massage therapist’s intentions are. We are here to help people and help them heal. And they’re not about that. It’s upsetting.”

Ron Precht, senior manager of communications at the American Massage Therapy Association, said it’s very frustrating when a story like the one involving charges in Florida surfaces.

“Prostitution and human trafficking isn’t massage therapy, but they are able to use the term massage which is a constant frustration for a massage therapist,” Mr. Precht said.

Mr. Precht said the greatest difficulty that massage therapists have to deal with is people who contact them and expect something that is inappropriate. “Many massage therapists have to deal with this fairly frequently where a person comes in for a massage and expects something other than massage,” Mr. Precht said. “Some of them have felt threatened. Some of them have been assaulted.”

Leslie A. Young, vice president of communication for Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals, said the Florida incident is common with illegal businesses masquerading as massage therapy practices. She said the only thing that the two have in common is use of the word “massage.”

“They (professional therapists) are working very hard to deliver therapeutic massage and these things play against their goals,” Ms. Young said. “But I think the more that the U.S. public is educated and also experiences therapeutic massage therapy for themselves, they understand it’s easy to delineate between illicit businesses and legitimate professional massage therapists and body workers.”

Ms. Young said the barrage of jokes is a slap in the face to more than 330,000 legitimate massage therapists across the U.S. because the accompanying crude comments don’t fit with the “wellness lifestyle”.

Although he has never had a client ask him for additional services, Mr. Dozios said he knows people in the licensed massage therapist field who have.

Ms. Kirkorian said she never had a client ask her for anything improper. If she did, Ms. Kirkorian said they would be asked to leave and never allowed back.

Any reputable massage therapy business would never tolerate such behavior, Mr. Dozios and Ms. Kirkorian agreed.

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Online: https://bit.ly/2tQGBHi

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Information from: Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, Mass.), http://www.telegram.com