Who's putting their hands on you: Staying safe while getting a m - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Who's putting their hands on you: Staying safe while getting a massage

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If you're looking to de-stress from the holidays, or maybe give the gift of de-stressing, a massage may seem like the answer.But after the arrest of a massage therapist at a national chain for sexually assaulting clients last month, it brings up the question, who is giving me a massage?

Before you even go inside your regular massage place, there are steps you might have already skipped to make you safer, according to Rebecca Dragseth, who runs a massage school in Spokane training people to become licensed massage practitioners.

The first step is to get a referral, "talk to your friends and find out who people are seeing and who they recommend. And that way you don't feel like you're just stepping into a random situation where you could potentially feel unsafe," said Dragseth.

If that's not an option, you should start by making sure your massage therapist is licensed. They should display it at their business and on their business card. Going through training school, Dragseth says, is the first step in the process of weeding out the creeps. "I do a very clear interview process and make sure that I know when the students come in, they're coming in for the right reasons."

Dragseth works closely with each student for 10 months until they graduate and take their boards where the state does a background check, which includes explaining any personal history that could be an issue. If the state approves, a massage therapist gets their license, which you can verify through the Department of Health's websites in Washington, Idaho, and Montana.

But even after all of that, it doesn't always work. A licensed massage therapist just pleaded guilty to assaulting multiple massage envy clients in the D.C. area. In Washington, Liberty Lake police arrested chiropractor Phillip Harris last year and he is going on trial for drugging and molesting two clients.

The lesson to learn? To relax, you have to stay vigilant. So what should a new client look for, maybe as a red flag when they go in for their first massage? Dragseth says, "if you feel uncomfortable at any time during the massage."

Dragseth once you are in a legitimate safe place, communicate with your massage therapist; be clear about what you want and what your limits are so there's no gray area. That way if you think something doesn't feel right you don't have to go back.

Getting a hold of state data on your massage therapist is as easy as clicking a link on your smartphone - Washington and Montana make the searches free on their websites - Idaho goes a step further, by listing all disciplinary actions online.

Local resources if you need to file a complaint:

Montana Board of Massage Therapy

Montana Licensee Lookup System           

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