A massage therapist from the Lake Mary Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa has been arrested and charged with sex battery after a customer accused him of sexually violating her during an appointment. 24-year-old Alfredo Barreras allegedly touched the victim inappropriately during an appointment in late August.
According to the report, the victim said she felt uncomfortable and was shaking following the massage. She later reported the incident to authorities.
Barreras posted a $40,000 bond and has been released from custody in Seminole County. Police have asked anyone else who has concerns about interactions with Barreras to contact them.
Sexual assault by massage therapists has become a nationwide problem. Hand and Stone is one of two major nationwide chains at the center of this scandal, with the other company being Massage Envy. This problem is especially common in Florida, as the Sunshine State has the largest number of sexual assault cases involving massage therapists at Hand and Stone franchise locations.
In recent related news, a lawsuit was filed against 5 Florida Massage Envy locations in August for alleged sexual assault by massage therapists. The victims in this lawsuit are represented by the law firm of Laffey, Bucci, and Kent.
Michael Haggard has a long track record of representing the victims of sexual assault, including multiple lawsuits for sexual assault at massage businesses. We've asked him to offer his two cents on the legal options available to the victims of these crimes:
A massage is supposed to be a way to relax and unwind. When we book a massage appointment at an official business, we expect the massage therapist to be a respectful professional. Unfortunately, some massage therapists abuse their positions of trust to sexually assault their customers. When this happens, it's important for the victim to be aware of their legal rights.
Contacting the authorities is a vital first step, as we must make sure these sexual predators face criminal penalties. However, the criminal justice system does not always adequately attend to the needs of victims. This is why victims should also consider filing a civil lawsuit against the business for failing to keep their customers safe from sexual assault. In many cases, negligence on the part of a massage therapist's employer played a role in the assault.
If you or someone you love was sexually assaulted by a massage therapist and you're curious about your legal options, we advise speaking with an experienced sexual assault victims lawyer.