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I minimize my experience all the time. It wasn’t until I saw RAINN feature a woman with a similar story to mine that I realized maybe I still count.

My husband had just recently deployed and I was staying with my mom for the duration. We both agreed we deserved to treat ourselves after having to pack up our home, travel cross-country to my mom’s, and him travel half-way across the world.

We decided we both would get a massage over the weekend. There was only one masseuse available and he was male (also related to the salon owner), but I didn’t mind because I saw myself as a mature adult. Our introduction and beginning of my massage went just fine and seemed normal. But after I had turned onto my back near the end of my massage, he came up towards my arms and shoulders and made a comment about my body saying it was “nice.” I awkwardly chuckled and said thanks because I assumed he meant in comparison to the older women who were the majority of the clientele at that salon. He had placed a heavy eye mask across my eyes and began massaging my neck, shoulders, and collarbone area. Then I felt him inching towards the blankets with each stroke and suddenly the blanket was removed from my upper body exposing my breasts and he began massaging up and down my chest. I immediately became very tense and uncomfortable. I had only had one massage before and it was with a woman but I knew for a fact this did not feel right. I finally mustered the guts to ask “is this typical for a massage?” He replied, “No, I don’t do this for all my clients.” In which I quickly said “Then you need to stop.”

He moved back up to my neck leaving my breasts still exposed. And after a few moments finally covered me back up and expressed how the massage had come to an end. He left the room so I could get dressed.

I came down to the front desk to pay. As the woman was ringing me up, the masseuse showed up all smiles and pleasant. I should’ve said something right then and there. Reported him. But I was embarrassed and didn’t want to make a scene. It’s also very small and everyone would’ve heard me. So I smiled and chit chatted with the receptionist politely while he hovered. I even tipped because I didn’t want my mom, who had gone there before, to look bad.

I drove the 5 minutes home and frantically called my husband from the car in a full panic and tears hoping he was still awake with the time difference. I felt like I had cheated on him. Luckily he was awake and his responses couldn’t have been better as he volunteers with Sexual Assault Prevention and Response in the Air Force. He said he would contact JAG and see if they could help us (they couldn’t). He also very quickly emailed the salon explaining what happened but they took no responsibility and said I received a “typical” massage and seemed like I was perfectly fine at the counter and mentioned how I’d even tipped. (My husband later explained to me how this is called “victim blaming”).

After sobbing and shaking on the phone I went inside and immediately told my mother. It was a Saturday, and that Monday we decided we needed to contact the police and report the incident. I’ve never reported anything or had many encounters with police except the rare speeding ticket. They made me nervous but a woman officer came to our home and she was very nice and started an investigation. A few days later my husband was able to come home on Emergency Leave with the police report. I had an interview with the detective on my case and brought my husband with me for support. But he had to stay in the lobby and I was brought to a small room with a male detective. He asked me what happened. I felt absolutely mortified and embarrassed talking alone to a male person of authority. As I was talking, I admitted my eyes were covered and I wasn’t sure how much of my breast/chest area he touched, or where, because the sensations all kind of blend. I was crying and blubbering the story and he was cold and short.

Afterwards, leaving the police station with my husband, I felt rattled, humiliated, and unsatisfied. I then filed a case with the state licensing board. I interviewed with a woman from there who was very understanding and kind, even explained that my complaint may help others years from now if someone else ever complains about him again. But unfortunately both my cases were dismissed due to “insufficient evidence.”

Its been 2 years but I still get overwhelmed with guilt and anger when I think about it. And I still think about it. Sometimes random things will trigger an intense emotional response. If I had just said something at the front desk. If I had just spoken with more conviction and strength to the detective. It truly angers me that he is still able to touch other people through his job with no repercussions. It’s not fair. My only hope is that the interactions with the police made him stop and think. But I’ll never know.

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