The Problem of Sexual Harassment in the Massage Field: John Travolta Accused of Assaulting Two Massage Therapists
Let’s talk about John Travolta, shall we?
If you haven’t heard the news this week, then we’ll do a quick rundown for you: On the heels of The Client List’s erroneous depiction of the massage profession, two massage therapists have now come forward and filed a lawsuit against A-list star John Travolta, claiming sexual battery and sexual harassment.
The first defendant filed on Monday, claiming that Travolta scheduled a session with him and drove him to a Beverly Hills hotel for a two-hour massage. During the second hour, Travolta allegedly took things way too far, repeatedly removing the sheet covering his lower half and groping the masseuse. When the man asked him to stop, Travolta apologized and promised to behave, but he continued to assault the therapist, touching him, propositioning him and even screaming at him.
The second massage therapist – also male – tells a similar story: propositioning, groping and overall lewd behavior.
We’re not here to take a stand on whether the allegations are true. Maybe they are. Or maybe these men were not harassed and are simply hoping to make a quick million off of a famous person. We’re also not here to debate Travolta’s sexuality – that doesn’t really matter.
What does matter is this: This could very easily be true. Sexual harassment in our industry is a real and present problem, one that we face every day.
There seems to be a common consensus in the public that “added services” are okay to ask us for. Or grope us for. As one user on the ABC News blog commented:
“There two different places that people for a rub down, one has a happy ending and the other is to relax and be pampered with no expectation of a happy ending. The owner of the establishment or the person doing the service should make it clear what the service entails.”
We’re not denying that there are establishments out there that probably offer something extra, but they are the exception, not the rule. The majority of us do not offer sexual services. The majority of us are trained medical practitioners. And we should not have to specify going into each and every session that we are not prostitutes.
The long-term goal is to change this outlook, to educate the public on what we actually provide: holistic healing and wellness. The short-term solution is, as massage therapists, to make sure we are educated on what our rights are and what steps we need to take if anyone – even a Travolta – takes things too far.
- Draw the line. If one of your clients tries to touch you inappropriately during a session, don’t just sidestep the problem. Tell them firmly to stop and make your boundaries clear.
- Walk away. Or, rather, make them walk away if they don’t get the point. One of defendants in the Travolta case claims he asked him to stop three different times. That’s two times too many. If it’s your business, tell them to leave. If you’re on-site at a client’s place, then hit the road. And scratch them off your client roster.
- Document and take action. What happens in many cases like this is that it’s a “he said, she said” kind of situation. Do whatever you can to document the incident – with coworkers, your manager, witnesses, etc. Depending on how bad it got, you should take action. What kind of action you take will depend on your state and how sexual harassment is viewed, so familiarize yourself with the laws if you haven’t already. Make sure other massage therapists are aware so they don’t also find themselves in an uncomfortable situation. When it comes to harassment, our silence only benefits the perpetrators.
How the Travolta case will turn out is anyone’s guess. Both sides claim they have evidence. Both sides claim the other one is lying. What is important is that we use it to shine a light on a reoccurring problem in our industry and work to correct it.