66-year-old massage therapist (name withheld for privacy), by all accounts, an asset to his community. More like a shaman or healer than a massage therapist, he helped folks, not only with their muscular complaints, but also with other, minor, health issues such as infertility. For 30 years, this man, self-identified as a “sobandero,” has worked to help his neighbors, but now he has been arrested on charges of sexual battery and for operating as an unlicensed massage therapist.
Not every state in the union requires massage therapists to be licensed, like Colorado. There, anyone can hang up a shingle and begin practicing without ever having even attended an accredited massage therapy school or taken a board examination. Other states, like California, require 250-500 or more hours of education from a California-approved school, passing grades on the MBLEx or NCETMB/NCETM (formal examinations), and (in some circumstances) additional county licensure. The California Massage Therapy Council even offers consumers a way to verify whether or not they are seeing a licensed practitioner (California Business and Professions Code 4600).
For people like him, however, practicing without a license can mean serious legal troubles. Law enforcement officials have not released the details of his case, but it is more likely than not that a client is involved in these allegations of sexual battery (CA Penal Code 243.4), which includes behavior like touching another person’s intimate areas in order to become sexually aroused or to abuse them in some other way. Though it is also likely that he successfully ran his business (though illegally) for 30 years, has been wrongly accused or that there is some misunderstanding afoot, he could face time in jail. A misdemeanor sexual battery charge in California could mean up to 1 year in county jail and a $2,000 fine. Felony sexual battery convictions carry with them up to 4 years in state prison and a $10,000 fine. In any case, it is wise to follow the law when it comes to being licensed to practice massage therapy, not only for the protection of your clients and of your reputation, but also for your protection from potentially groundless accusations.