That problem is that we do not have a strong voice and leadership when it comes to massage therapy so often being thought of as a place to get sexually oriented businessess. Since about 1894, we have been constantly confused and entangled with Sexually Oriented Businesses. Professional Associations are supposed to be advocates that include calls to action. Your actions (or lack of actions) speak so loudly, I can not hear what you say. Your lame statements have not helped anything.
DW gets the Millions of Dollars while the massage profession gets more jokes and inuendos to deal with which adds to the risk we take in our daily work as massage therapists:
“A fan was wearing an orange Browns shirt with “FREE WATSON” on the front and “ALL HE WANTED WAS A HAPPY ENDING” on the back.” ESPN News. Jake Trotter
Where are you AMTA and ABMP?
Here is the story
If you have been trying to avoid watching the news lately, you might need to catch up on many years of NFL Football Player, Deshaun Watson (DW) of the Cleveland Browns and previously of Houston Texans.
To make a very long story short: DW was accused of sexual assault/sexual harassment by 66 women who were massage therapists. It started back in March 2020 and the first suit was filed in March 16, 2021.
“Deshaun Watson’s massage therapy allegations spotlight a misunderstood industry. Historical connections between massage and sex work have created harmful stereotypes and misconceptions about the services that massage therapists provide.” March 27, 2021, 5:56 AM PDT By Morgan E. Richard, doctoral student in experimental psychology at the University of New Brunswick
It started in Texas and the New York Times provided a timeline of events and lists of spas invovled saying:
“The Times’s review also showed that Watson’s conduct was enabled, knowingly or not, by the team he played for at the time, the Houston Texans, which provided the venue Watson used for some of the appointments.”
How the Texans and a Spa Enabled Deshaun Watson’s Troubling Behavior Vrentas, Jenny. New York Times (Online), New York: New York Times Company. Jun 7, 2022.
April 6, 2021 – Ashley Solis, one of the massage therapists accusing DW makes a statement with her attorney.
Even the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called Watson’s behavior “egregious” and “predatory.”
The only football-related financial penalty came in the form of a $5 million fine that was part of the NFL-NFLPA settlement; Watson presumably also paid money to settle most of the civil suits, although those details are unknown. A major part of the settlement agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association, in addition to the length of suspension and $5 million fine, was the requirement for Watson to be evaluated by behavioral experts and follow their treatment program. Of course because of privacy issues, the results of this evaluation and treatment are not available.
To make things worse, DW’s attorney said this: “Happy endings are not a crime, and a happy ending is a consensual happy ending.” He doesn’t even get this: A request for a happy ending is sexual harassment.
The best part is that the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) held their yearly convention in Cleveland in Aug 2022, when DW was getting his suspensions and penalties. The story was all over the local and national news. The local news stations caught on to the irony of the AMTA hosting their conference in the same city and just down the street from where the Clevelan Browns Play. Here are some of the headlines:
American Massage Therapy Association schedules Annual Massage Conference in Cleveland near Browns Stadium by Damond Talbot August 4, 2022. NFL Draft Diamonds
Deshaun Watson case revives old fight for massage therapy industry at national convention in Cleveland Cleveland.com Updated: Aug. 29, 2022, 12:48 p.m.| Published: Aug. 26, 2022, 9:45 a.m.
Massage therapy convention coming to Cleveland as Deshaun Watson remains in spotlight. Cleveland19.com
AMTA had a very big opportunity to stand up for the massage therapy profession and condem his actions and make a stand to stop this continued sexual harassment/sexual assault of the massage therapy profession. Their first response on June 16th and then again on Aug 2 was about the safety of massage therapists. They then made a statement saying that they were disappointed in the NFL’s decision regarding DW as posted on their website.
The Associated Press was at the convention and did an article/video on it (below).
The article said: “While there were no anti-Watson protests outside Cleveland’s Huntingdon Convention Center nor any mention of the Browns quarterback inside, there was an undercurrent that suggested he was an impetus to what some believe needs to be done going forward.”
Why wasn’t there a protest with every convention attendee holding signs and chanting “Lock him up”?
Associated Massage and Bodywork Professionals (ABMP) also made a statement on the issue.
They were also interviewed for this article in USA Today: Deshaun Watson’s behavior and the dangerous perception that massage is foreplay for sex Cara Kelly USA TODAY
“But the tendency to view massage therapists as sex objects has deeper roots.
“We’re fighting thousands of years of behavior in society,” said Les Sweeney, president and CEO of Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals. “Part of the solution we believe is educating people to understand the difference. That doesn’t mean we or anybody is going to eradicate all the bad guys… but the more light we shine on this the easier it is for therapists to have some standing.”
Cleveland can transform outrage over Deshaun Watson into an opportunity to fix perceptions about massage therapy: Diane Mastnardo Cleveland.com Published: Aug. 19, 2022, 5:21 a.m.
“This isn’t about one case, it’s about a culture that enables and tolerates sexual assault.
Massage therapy has been plagued with misconceptions in the United States for over a century, and our culture perpetuates an inappropriate connection that is being highlighted by the NFL. This is an opportunity to utilize this awful circumstance to help educate and heal our culture and our community.” Cleveland.com
What could have been done?
- A call to action for all AMTA/ABMP members but especially AMTA because they were in Cleveland. Show up outside the first game that was being played while they were in town with signs that say Massage is Therapy: Massage is NOT Sex Work
- Invite DW to the convention and have him apologize to the profession. I actaully did email his lawyer and suggested that he attend the convention. No response of course.
- Ask DW for a public apology to ALL massage therapists whose lives he has further endagered. Hi is one of the reasons I bought this website and am working to build it out and create local networks. He should be paying to do that!
What Now Needs to be Done to Start Untangling Massage Therapy from Sexually Oriented Businesses
- Create local networks of massage therapists who work in their areas to create awareness of the problems to help in connecting with law enforcement, media and landlords who rent space to these places. (AMTA used to have very strong chapters and also local units where a call to action could be created and spread through the masses. They did away with units many years ago. Chapter leadership is struggling with lack of volunteers. AMTA used to have a chapter fee that went directly to the chapter to be used as they saw fit. When that went away a few years ago, so did the power of the chapters. AMTA-WA used to have a team of attornies on retainer along with a lobbysist. )
- Help local networks of massage therapist to put up billboards in their area and create TV commercials, radio ads, health and wellness events and more.
- Stop using the terms Illicit Massage Business and Massage parlor. Call them what they are: They are a sexually oriented business disguised as a massage business and it is a SEX parlor. Learn more about the language that is being used and how to change the narrative. Massage is Therapy
- Get to know your law enforcement agencies (article on Massage Magazine by Sandy Fritz) and work with them in your community.
- Sign this petition on change.org. When you sign, it will also send an email to the AMTA, ABMP, FSTMB and others.