The Arizona State Board of Massage Therapy took emergency action Monday to suspend the licenses of two massage therapists after allegations they sexually assaulted women during massages.
The unanimous action means the two therapists are banned from working as massage therapists while they wait for formal hearings before the state regulatory board on potential violations of state laws governing massage therapy.
The licensing board, of which the five members were all replaced in September with new ones by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey after a investigation by The Arizona Republic, took action after reviewing complaints from two women in a meeting Monday.
A female supposedly therapist, Adrian Hernandez, digitally penetrated her and touched her breasts. Another woman supposedly therapist Charles Peck stroked her vagina towards the end of the massage.
This is the third time in two months that the massage commission has summarily suspended licenses following accusations of sexual abuse. In October, the council suspended Flagstaff’s therapist license Timothy a williams after allegations, he failed to report a recent sexual abuse charge and falsified his application for a massage therapy license.
The previous council rarely, if ever, used emergency suspensions when dealing with complaints of sexual abuse. Measures are used when the board determines that there is an imminent threat to health and safety.
A republic survey published in September found that the massage board regularly gave many therapists a second chance when accused of fondling or sexually assaulting their clients. This puts customers at risk and there is little they can do to protect themselves. The governor replaced the board of directors less than two weeks after the articles were published, saying “it is essential that the State Massage Therapy Board protect massage clients, especially those in a vulnerable position. “.
Current board member Myriah Mhoon, who was named following The Republic stories, has called the allegations urgent and something that cannot be tolerated.
“We should take emergency measures,” she said.
Florida attorney Adam Horowitz, who is not involved in Arizona cases but represents victims of sexual abuse and assault, called the emergency actions a positive development for public safety.
“In the past, it took so long to get to a final hearing that massage therapists and other health care providers would continue to have access to patients for months or years, even if therapists had multiple complaints against them.” , did he declare.
Emergency suspensions strike the right balance between public safety and due process, he said.
This is the second time Hernandez has faced a sex complaint before the massage commission, according to a discipline database maintained by the Republic. Hernandez is accused of sexual misconduct and inappropriate draping while working at a Massage Envy site in 2018.
A client accused Hernandez of putting her hand on her chest without explanation during a 2018 massage, which made her uncomfortable. The way he draped her leg also made her feel exposed. The woman asked that he not work on her chest. But he did it anyway, stating in a hearing with counsel that he had forgotten his request.
After the complaint, Hernandez was fired from Massage Envy. But he said during the 2018 hearing that he started working at Elements Massage. He also said he took classes to improve his draping skills. The council issued him a non-discipline order, which included eight hours of communication instruction.
On Monday, board members learned that Hernandez was charged on October 29 with digitally penetrating a woman’s vagina, touching her breasts and making an inappropriate comment. He was working at an Elements Massage at the time, although the location was not disclosed during the public meeting. Council members learned that Hernandez admitted to penetrating her digitally.
The client, identified with BH, reported the incident to the Mesa Police Department, who investigated and referred the case to the Maricopa County District Attorney’s Office for review.
The woman told council members on Monday that she was undergoing trauma therapy and taking medication on a daily basis.
“I’m not currently working because I informed my job about what was going on and I didn’t really have time off,” she said, her voice choked with emotion. “I wanted the board to understand how much this has affected me, and I hope the appropriate action is taken.”
Hernandez, who was at the board meeting, said the information board members had in front of them on Monday was “up to date” and “true.” Later in the meeting, he said he was open to questions to clarify what had happened, adding that he wanted to show how “I can be of great value to public safety and how I can continue to help people “.
But the board members had no further questions and went ahead with summarily suspend his massage license. A formal hearing into the allegations will likely take place in February.
After Hernandez, the board dealt with allegations against therapist Charles Peck. A Southwest Family Advocacy Center detective informed the board of a client, identified as BH, who said she fell asleep on the massage table and woke up to find Peck’s hands between her legs. ” in a sexual way “.
Peck told the board on Monday that the contact was accidental. He was working inside the top of the woman’s leg when he moved too far to the left, and his hand touched her vagina. He said the area was draped – meaning covered with a sheet – at the time.
“I feel very bad about it and immediately told him I was sorry,” he said.
He said he had been seeing the client for massages for about five years.
Board chair Angela Reiter, a registered massage therapist for nearly three decades, said she has never accidentally come into contact with someone’s genitals during a massage.
“Personally, I don’t see how that is possible as a massage therapist,” she said. “I’m not saying it’s impossible. But for almost 30 years, I haven’t had this.”
She said massage therapists need to be aware of proper draping, especially when working in vulnerable areas.
The board of directors voted unanimously summarily suspend Peck’s license. A formal hearing date has not been set.
Williams, the Flagstaff therapist accused of failing to report a recent sexual abuse charge and falsifying his massage therapy license application, was due to have a formal hearing before the board on Monday.
But the board postponed the hearing to January 24 because Williams is recovering from an illness.
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