Gap in state law keeps massage sex abuse allegations under wraps

SEATTLE -- They are supposed to be moments of pure relaxation and bliss. But for more than four dozen people in Washington, massages have become moments of abuse.

“It's always shocking when something like this happens,” said Veronica Craker with the Better Business Bureau.

Q13 News searched through records and found that 56 licensed massage therapists have been sanctioned or had their licenses pulled after credible claims of sexual wrongdoing over the past five years.

Some have come from big chains like Massage Envy after an expose’ in Buzzfeed News. Others have come from online dealers like Groupon.

Craker says that's a big flag.

“Don't assume that those companies are researching and vetting the companies. Even if they are operating a deal, don't assume they know everything about that business,” she said.

We reached out to Groupon and haven't heard back about their process to check licenses of their sellers.

We've learned that in Washington, state law does not require massage business to tell the Department of Health if there have been complaints—only if the masseuse has been fired.

That's a gap in the law that Craker says relies on hope rather than a requirement.

“That they would come forward. That they would investigate and reach out to law enforcement as well and unfortunately that's not always what happens,” she said.

So what about people who aren't with companies, like independent contractors?

They need licenses, too.

The DOH website has a powerful database to look up any name or business--and that includes massage.

If you want to be safe, you can look up the name of your masseuse or their company to see if they have a license and to see if there have been complaints.

“Shoppers do more research into what restaurant they're going to go to sometimes than who they're going to bring into their home and things like that,” Craker said.

Click on this link to do your own search.