Investigators are asking women who believe they may have been sexually assaulted by a massage therapist at the Seal Beach Massage Envy to come forward.
Jason Michael Elliott, 28, of Sunset Beach pleaded not guilty recently to three felony counts of assault with intent to commit a sexual offense, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. As he awaits trial, prosecutors allege that he may have assaulted additional victims.
The case raises the question: how intimate is too intimate during a massage?
A massage is one of the most personal services a person can legally buy. It’s perfectly common for a client to lie naked on the table underneath a towel or sheet during a massage.
Furthermore, “Every massage school and text book always teaches massage therapists how to work on the gluteus maximus (the rear-end),” said Ahmos Netanel, chief executive officer for the California Massage Therapy Council, an industry group that certifies massage therapists. “There really is no standard massage. The cardinal rule is for the recipient to feel safe, comfortable and relaxed.”
Clients vary in their comfort levels, and they should tell their massage therapist what they prefer. If a client wishes to remain fully dressed, that would be perfectly fine because a good masseuse can work without oils and through fabric, added Netanel.
However, in Seal Beach, the law, when it comes to massages, are uniquely specific.
Seal Beach happens to have a code that prohibits clients from stripping down to nothing, and it is up to the massage therapist to inform the client of the law, said Seal Beach Police Detective David Barr.
If clients aren’t sure whether a sexual assault has occurred during the massage, one simple rule to keep in mind is that it is never legal for the massage therapist to touch any body part that would normally be covered by a g-string, said Barr.
Clients who have questions or concerns about the process should address them prior to the massage, added Barr.
Anyone who believed a boundary has been crossed during a massage can report it to the company's management in order to help establish a pattern of misconduct. They can also report it to the police if they believe a crime has occurred, and they can file a complaint with the California Massage Therapy Council. However, not all therapists are certified by the council, and the state does not have a licensing agency for massage therapists.
Anyone who believes Elliott may have sexually assaulted them can contact supervising District Attorney Investigator Lou Gutierrez at (714) 347-8794 or Seal Beach Police Department Detective Dave Barr at (562) 799-4100 Ext. 1110.
Elliott worked at the Seal Beach Boulevard spa from August 2009 to April 2010 when the company fired him amid a police investigation into claims that he assaulted three women, prosecutors said.
Despite the investigation Elliott continued to work as a masseuse in Mission Viejo and other parts of Orange County. Last month, the California Massage Therapy Council revoked his certification.
The case began Nov. 8, 2009 when a 33-year-old woman told police Elliot had sexually assaulted her that day at the Seal Beach Boulevard Massage Envy. As detectives investigated her claim, they found two other alleged victims.
Prosecutors allege Elliott sexually assaulted a 30-year-old woman at the same business during a spa treatment on Sept. 30, 2009 and a 21-year-old woman who paid for a massage April 29, 2010.
Elliott was arrested this month, and is free on $100,000 bail. He could faces up to eight years and eight months in prison if convicted.