Sexual Assault During A Massage

When you go to a massage parlor or spa facility and are subjected to inappropriate touching or even sexual assault, you have rights and options available to you so that you can hold your abuser accountable for their actions.

Every year, customers at massage parlors fall victim to sexual predators who work in these facilities. This was the case in 2017 when Jane Epstein, a patron at Massage Envy in Burlingame, CA, was sexually assaulted by her therapist. Like so many other victims who come forward and report the abuse, Epstein was able to hold her abuser and the facility accountable after filing a civil lawsuit against them.

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As a victim of sexual assault during a massage, first, we want to apologize that this tragic event has happened to you. Please know it isn’t your fault, and you are not alone. A small percentage of victims have endured this type of abuse. However, this does not take away from the very real pain and emotional toll it can take on your physical and mental well-being.

Understanding whether your experience at a massage parlor is sexual assault is the first step in identifying the abuse so you can report it. Knowing what to do if you find yourself in this situation is key to seeking the justice you deserve.

The sexual assault lawyers at Bachus & Schanker are committed to protecting those who are abused or assaulted when they are at their most vulnerable. Our law firm is dedicated to protecting victims through our Victim’s Advocates Team. This specialized team works with our Elite Litigation Group to help you seek the justice, representation, and restitution you deserve. 

Can you sue a massage parlor for sexual assault?

Yes, you can sue a massage parlor or a spa facility if you were the victim of sexual assault in their facility. If the massage parlor was aware of the assault or failed to take proper precautions to prevent it, they may be held liable for damages. 

Suing a massage parlor is one of several steps you should take after reporting the sexual abuse. Along with naming the massage parlor, you can sue your abuser as well, whether or not they have already faced criminal charges for their behavior.

As with all business establishments, massage parlors have a duty to protect their patrons. If they violate this duty, they can be held liable for negligence. Take, for example, a business that knowingly has someone on staff who has committed sexual assault on a customer before. If the individual commits the abuse again, the employer can be held liable because they knowingly kept a staff member who is a danger to customers on their payroll and premises. 

What is “informed consent” and how does it apply during a massage?

Informed consent means that you have been fully informed about a medical procedure or treatment and have given your consent to undergo it. The concept of informed consent applies to massage parlors as well because of the nature of the service you are being provided.

When you are receiving massage therapy, you are in a vulnerable position during the treatment. A good massage therapist should help you feel more comfortable by explaining the treatment, explaining what exactly you will experience, and asking for your consent before beginning. If they fail to do so, or if you did not give your consent, it can be considered a violation of your rights.

Even if you give your implied consent to a massage therapist and are subjected to inappropriate touching or sexual assault, this does not mean you are to blame. A predator who chooses to assault a victim will do so whether or not they get consent. It’s essential to speak up about your experience if you feel you were the victim of massage sexual assault in order to hold your abuse accountable.

Examples of sexually inappropriate touching during a massage

Because of the nature of massage therapy, it may be difficult for you to determine whether or not a therapist has inappropriately touched you. If you have ever felt uneasy, concerned, or fearful while under the care of a massage therapist, it’s important to pay attention to your feelings because they could indicate something inappropriate has or is happening. 

Common examples of sexually inappropriate touching during a massage can include but are not limited to the following:

  • Touching of the genital area or breasts without consent
  • Inappropriate touching of other intimate areas of the body without consent
  • Massaging the buttocks or inner thighs in a manner that is sexual in nature or done for the pleasure of the therapist
  • Using sexual language, making sexual comments, or sexual noises during the massage
  • Feeling pressured to remove clothing or experiencing removal of clothing without permission
  • Rubbing against the client’s body in a sexually charged manner
  • Making suggestive or inappropriate gestures or movements during the massage
  • Engaging in sexual contact or intercourse during the massage
  • Being forced to engage in a sexual act

It is important to keep in mind that examples of sexual assault in a massage parlor or spa facility can happen to both men and women. According to recent data from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 81% of women in the US report experiencing some form of sexual assault, while 43% of men report the same. 

Does it matter what type of massage I choose?

Massage parlors offer a wide range of massage therapy services and session types. Massage services you may experience at a facility can include the following:

Deep Tissue Massage – This type of massage works out the deep layer tissues in your body and can help reduce stress and muscle aches. Deep tissue massages require more pressure than other massages as well as slow movements.

Sports Massage – This type of massage is designed for athletes who are preparing and recovering from a workout or sports competition. Sports massages are usually focused on specific parts of the body like the lower back, legs, arms, neck, etc.

Reflexology – This type of massage consists of applying pressure on specific points on the body, including the hands, feet, and ears.

Swedish Massage – A gentle and relaxing massage that incorporates long strokes, circular movements, and kneading to help release tension and promote relaxation.

Thai Massage – A more active type of massage that involves compression, stretching, and rhythmic movements. 

Shiatsu Massage – A popular Japanese style of massage that involves applying pressure to specific points on the body. It is also designed to release tension and promote relaxation. 

Hot Stone Massage – As the name suggests, hot stones are placed on key parts of your body to promote muscle relaxation.

Some massage treatments might leave you feeling more vulnerable than others because of the nature of the massage. Regardless, no matter the type of massage you are receiving, you should never feel as though you are being sexually violated. You should never endure an actual physical or sexual assault.

How to report massage therapist sexual assault

If you have experienced sexual assault during a massage, it’s essential to report it as soon as possible. While this is a painful journey, please remember you do not have to go through it alone. You have several options available to you regarding reporting your assault.

  • If you are fearful of reporting the abuse to the owner or supervisor at the massage facility, it’s important to alert local law enforcement immediately. Once law enforcement is involved, they can help you navigate the process of what to do next. 
  • You should also report the abuse to the Massage Therapy Licensing Board in your state. This will initiate an investigation into the facility and any therapists or third parties that may be held responsible.
  • Additionally, seeking legal representation from an experienced sexual assault lawyer can help you navigate the legal road ahead. In addition to pursuing criminal charges against your abuser and the facility, you can seek civil charges that will ultimately help you on your path to healing.

How much time do I have to file a massage sexual assault claim in Colorado?

You should report your experience of sexual abuse by a massage therapist as quickly as possible. Understandably, many victims can go years without reporting the abuse because of fear of retaliation, fear of victim blaming, and other factors that keep them from coming forward. Please know you did nothing wrong, and the abuser is the one to blame.

Each state has different statutes of limitation for reporting felony sex crimes. Colorado, for example, has not eliminated the statute of limitation for these crimes. Depending on the severity of the felony sex crime, the statute of limitations can be anywhere from 11 to 20 years.

How the sexual assault lawyers at Bachus & Schanker can help you

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If you have experienced sexual assault during a massage, the lawyers at Bachus & Schanker can help you navigate the legal process and fight for your rights. Our experienced sexual assault lawyers will work tirelessly to help build your case, preserve evidence, and fight for your right to justice, restitution, and healing.


Benjamin, Ben. (2014). Educating Massage Clients: What’s Appropriate and What’s Not

Sexual Assult Statistics. (2023).

State by State Guide on Statutes of Limitations. (2023). 

Woman accuses Massage Envy worker of sexual assault at Burlingame location. (2023).

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Written and Legally Reviewed By: Kyle Bachus

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Kyle is a member of the Colorado and Florida Bar associations and has served on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association for more than twenty years in total. Over the years, Kyle has achieved justice for many clients. He has served on numerous committees and repeatedly won recognition from his peers at both the state and national level. He is proud of the role he has played in the passage of state and national legislation to protect consumers and is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer.