On Wednesday, Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputies arrested a licensed massage therapist and home health care provider who is accused of sexually assaulting one healthcare patient and two massage clients.
43-year-old Russell Bernardino is charged with rape, elder sexual abuse, oral copulation and sexual battery. The alleged incidents happened between March 2018 and June 2019.
Bernardino is accused of sexually assaulting two women at the Massage Envy – Mission Viejo South location and raping an elderly women at her home in Laguna Woods while she was under Bernardino’s care as an employee of West Coast Care.
West Coast Care is an assisted living company based in Orange, which provides in-home care to patients in Orange County. Bernardino worked for that company between 2017 and 2018. A 77-year-old woman who was under his care reported that he raped her at her home in March 2018.
About one year later, a 36-year-old woman reported that Bernardino had sexually assaulted her during a massage at Massage Envy in Mission Viejo, located at 27620 Marguerite Parkway, Suite A&B, in April 2019. A 71-year-old woman also reported that he had sexually assaulted her at the same location in June 2019.
Authorities believe that there may be more victims of Bernardino who have not come forward yet and have reached out to the public to find any other victims. Anyone with information has been asked to contact the Sheriff’s Department at 714-647-7419.
Former sex crimes prosecutor Bobby Thompson – a national alliance of sex abuse victims attorneys representing victims in civil cases. Bobby has offered to share some of his thoughts on the legal rights of those who have been sexually assaulted by massage therapists, caregivers, and others in positions of trust:
In certain fields, it’s extremely important to make sure all employees are trustworthy because of the sensitive nature of the work they do. Massage therapy and caregiving are two of these fields. If the wrong people are hired, there is a high potential for sexual abuse.
Massage therapists must be trustworthy because of the fact that they are alone with clients who are in vulnerable positions. Likewise, caregivers often work with vulnerable patients in one-on-one situations.
Those who run these types of businesses must do everything they can to protect their clients from sexual predators. When a patient or client is sexually assaulted by an employee, it’s important to determine if the business failed in their legal duty to protect their client base.
In some cases, businesses like massage studios and home caregiver services are partially responsible for the sexual abuse of their clients due to negligence. In these situations, the victims and their families may have grounds for a massage therapist sexual assault lawsuit against the business.
If you or a loved one has been sexually assaulted by a massage therapist, caregiver, or someone else in a position of trust, you can learn more about your family’s legal options by contacting an experienced sexual assault victims lawyer.