A woman is sharing her story to help others, after complaining to police about massage therapist charged with sexual assault
WINNIPEG -- A woman said hearing that a Brandon massage therapist has been charged with sexual assault gave her the courage to come forward with her own complaint. Now, she’s sharing her story with the hope of encouraging others to get the help they may need after going through the trauma of sexual assault.
CTV News Winnipeg has agreed to not name the woman, 40, but confirmed with the Brandon Police Service that she has filed a formal report over an incident with the same massage therapist who it previously announced is facing eight sexual assault charges in connection with other complaints.
“It’s been very triggering to have to talk about it all,” the woman told CTV News.
“I want to be able to help other people come forward, because knowing that there was others was what helped me,” she said.
“And it’s time, nobody should have to wonder, or be scared that people won’t believe them.”
The woman said the incident her complaint centered on took place in her third massage therapy appointment with the man, 54, last March. Her first two appointments with his were non-eventful, she said.
But in the third, she alleges he touched her inappropriately after removing a towel draped over her breasts, without warning or asking for consent.
“I was in, just, shock. It happened so fast. I froze,” she said.
“You wonder if the people in the next room can hear everything going on, and you’re just silently screaming.”
CTV News spoke with registered massage therapists in Manitoba and Ontario who both described being trained to get express consent for massages in the chest area.
“And without somebody asking your permission, you just feel completely violated,” the woman said.
She said she had previously been a victim of sexual assault in her early adolescence, and thought she would never again be a victim.
“I was able to go through a lot of support and counselling, and I’ve been doing really well. And then all of a sudden you’re on a table feeling vulnerable,” she said.
She told CTV News she wanted to share her story to discourage others from staying silent, and to share advice with other people about how to react if a friend or family confides about an assault.
“When you’re friend tells you that this has happened, the first thing you need to ask is, 'Are you okay? Are you okay? And do you need anything?'
“Or like, can I help you go make a police report.”
MAKING A POLICE REPORT
A spokesperson for Brandon police told CTV News they were unable to confirm what part of the investigational process officers are at with regard to the woman’s complaint, which was filed after police announced the massage therapist had been charged with eight counts of sexual assault.
The first two charges were announced by police in late November; the other six after more alleged victims came forward.
“In light of these allegations, we are not surprised that more individual women are coming forward with similar experiences. If anyone else feels they too were a victim they can contact Brandon Police Service at 204-729-2345,” said Sgt. Kirby Sararas, public information officer.
The woman CTV News spoke with said officers did their best to make her feel comfortable while she was questioned extensively about the incident.
She said she was directed to resources, through victim services, and said efforts are also underway to connect her with counselling.
“It’s completely normal to have emotions surrounding this. And it’s normal. And I think that’s the thing people question about this. Is it normal to feel like this? And it totally is.”
GETTING HELP WITHOUT CONTACTING LAW ENFORCEMENT
Brandon police said victims of sexual assault who don’t wish to speak with law enforcement can file a third party report at the Women’s Resource Centre in Brandon at 731 Princess Street.
Third party reports are given to community agencies who share information about the assault to police, without sharing your identity.
More information about third party reporting and where to go for support and resources in Manitoba can be found by calling the Klinic Sexual Assault Crisis line at 1-888-292-7565. In Winnipeg, third party reports can also be made by contacting Ka Ni Kanichichk’s Heart Medicine Lodge or Sage House.
If a victim wants to have a medical exam to collect evidence following an assault in Winnipeg, they can go to an emergency room or urgent care centre. Outside Winnipeg, victims can go to the closest emergency room, clinic or nursing centre.
More information about options after a sexual assault is available online, on the Province of Manitoba’s website.