A client should always undress to their level of comfort. Hayes emphasizes that removing clothes is not necessary for a massage. The therapist should leave when clothes are removed and the client should go underneath the sheet either on their back or their stomach before the therapist re-enters the room. When working on the body, Benjamin stresses that the therapist should check in three to four times to make sure the pressure is OK. Hayes says, “a therapist should be having a collaborative invitation for a client to participate in and creating an opportunity for consent.”
If the client is undressed, when it is time to turn over during the massage, Benjamin emphasizes, “[The massage therapist] should be holding the sheet up turning the head away and the client should be totally covered while the client rolls over.”
Predatory massage therapists may slowly try to cross boundaries during the massage to see if the client is going to respond negatively. Examples of crossing boundaries include inappropriate jokes, comments about the body, rubbing high on the inner thighs, touching underwear with their hands, or making contact with the genital region. The sheet should cover at least three to four inches below the pelvis, resting on the upper thigh.
This year, many states and cities have enacted restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals has aggregated state-specific information about these recommended guidelines and restrictions. However, even with these new advisories, Benjamin says, “Predator therapists will still be out there, so I don’t think it’s any safer as far as inappropriate touch.”
Although I’ve tried to deal with all my issues through therapy, meditation, and exercise, at times, I still wonder if I’ve made the massage up in my head. “Times of extreme stress such as traumatic events can impair how memory is stored and subsequently recalled,” says Schwartz. “High arousal emotional and somatic experience disrupts the functioning of parts of the brain involved in sequential thought and language. It is common to question yourself, or for the event to feel surreal.”
After months of therapy, I have slowly stopped blaming myself for the incident. The interrogating tone in my head has softened into a compassionate one. I have tried to let go of the traumatic massage, but I still feel triggered at times. I still have a lot of self-doubts. My thoughts about the incident are like a pendulum that swings from questioning whether I should have reported it to the police to wondering if I made up some of the things that happened in the room.