Legal Commentary On This Story Brought To You By Attorney Brian Kent
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Police arrested and charged a licensed massage therapist with sexually abusing a customer at the Karasmatic Day Spa in Bayport earlier in August. 33-year-old Mathew Widener was arrested on August 28 and charged with third-degree sexual abuse. He was arraigned the same day at First District Court in Central Islip and released on his own recognizance.
Widener had been employed at the Karasmatic Day Spa for about one year. A 34-year-old female customer has accused him of touching her inappropriately during a massage appointment on August 12. Widener was fired after his employer was notified about the allegations.
Police believe there may be other victims and have urged any others to come forward. Anyone who believes they may have been a victim may call the Fifth Squad at 631-854-8552.
Last year, BuzzFeed News published an investigative report that shed light on a widespread problem of sexual abuse by massage therapists across the country. This report investigated a company called Massage Envy and found a total of 180 complaints, lawsuits, and police reports for sexual assault at Massage Envy locations throughout the country.
This week, Massage Envy was hit with two more major lawsuits - one with at least 6 victims in California and another with at least 11 victims in Florida. However, this epidemic isn't only limited to this one chain - allegations of sexual assault by massage therapists occur both at nationwide chains and at smaller independent businesses.
Attorney Brian Kent is representing the victims in the Florida and California Massage Envy sexual assault lawsuits. We've asked him to share some of his thoughts on how civil lawsuits can help the survivors of massage therapist sexual assault:
Massage therapy is built on trust - all customers deserve the security and peace of mind that their massage therapist is a professional who will conduct themselves respectfully. Unfortunately, some massage therapists break this trust and sexually abuse their clients. The survivors of these crimes deserve justice, which can be found both through the criminal justice and civil court systems.
Sometimes, sexual assault by massage therapists only occurs because of employer negligence. For example, the massage therapist's employer may fail to report the assault to authorities or continue allowing the therapist to work even after he or she has been accused of sexual assault, which leads to additional victims. In cases where negligence is to blame for failing to prevent a sexual assault, the victim could have grounds for a lawsuit against the massage company.
If you're the survivor of sexual assault by a massage therapist and are curious about your legal options, we advise speaking with an experienced sexual assault victims lawyer.
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