37-year-old massage therapist Carl Eric Nelson was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a female client today. Specific charges include two felony counts of sexual assault, one felony count of aggravated indecent assault without consent, and one misdemeanor count of indecent assault without consent. The alleged assault took place at the Sincere Therapy massage business at 221 W. High Street in Bellefonte, PA. Nelson is currently being held without bail because he has no current residence and is considered a public safety concern.
The victim contacted police on July 25, the day after she had an 8 p.m. appointment with Nelson. She said this was the third time she’d visited Sincere Therapy in the past two months and had seen Nelson both times, but this was the only time he allegedly assaulted her.
The professional relationship between a massage therapist and their clients is based on trust. Clients are in a potentially vulnerable position, alone in a room with a therapist while they’re mostly undressed and trusting the therapist to respect their boundaries and behave professionally. Massage therapy businesses must do their due diligence when hiring therapists and make sure no one with a history of sexual abuse is allowed to work for them. Additionally, complaints of improper conduct or sexual assault made by clients should be taken seriously, and those accused should not be permitted to see other clients until an investigation is completed.
Attorney contributor Brian Kent has some thoughts on the problem of massage therapist sexual assault:
Unfortunately, cases of sexual abuse by massage therapists are fairly common in the United States. Sexual predators often place themselves in positions and professions where they’ll have an opportunity to abuse others behind closed doors. Employers must be aware of this fact and do all that they can to prevent this abuse.
When a client is abused, it’s important to ask what more could have been done to prevent their traumatic experience. Sexual predators must be held accountable by the criminal justice system, but the companies who enable them to commit their crimes through negligence (such as a lack of proper pre-hiring screening) must also be held accountable by the civil court system. Victims who can demonstrate negligence on the part of the facility where the assault occurred may have the option to recover financial compensation for both economic and non-economic damages related to the assault.