59-year-old Dwayne Pittman has been charged with sexual battery in connection with a sexual assault which allegedly took place at Victoria’s Day Spa in Yorktown on June 30. Pittman resigned after a customer accused him of sexual assault during a massage appointment. Police served Pittman with a warrant at his home in Virginia Beach on July 25. According to the criminal complaint, Terri Benson, the manager at Victoria’s Day Spa, found the victim crying following the incident. Pittman will be arraigned in York County on August 21.
The overwhelming majority of massage therapists are trustworthy people who conduct themselves professionally. However, a small minority of massage therapists abuse their position of trust to sexually abuse and assault clients in vulnerable positions. According to an investigative report by BuzzFeed News, more than 180 women have filed police reports, complaints to state courts, and lawsuits against a franchise called Massage Envy – and that’s just one company. Sexual assault by massage therapists is a widespread problem at massage therapy facilities across the country.
Our attorney contributor Kevin Biniazin has weighed in on the rights of customers who are sexually assaulted by their massage therapists:
Massage businesses have a legal obligation to make sure their customers are safe and in trusted hands. With such a high potential for abuse, it’s crucial that potential new hires at massage facilities are thoroughly screened before being hired and allowed to see customers. Additionally, these companies have an obligation to take complaints seriously and address them before allowing the alleged abuser to potentially hurt other customers.
If a business failed to adequately screen an employee, failed to fire someone who abused a customer, or was negligent in another way, that business could be held liable in a sexual abuse lawsuit filed by the victim. Determining business liability in these cases is a complex process that will require assistance from a sexual abuse victims lawyer.