Woman says massage therapist sexually violated her at a South Florida Massage Envy

(WSVN) - A South Florida woman was looking to get a relaxing massage, but instead — she says she got sexually violated. Now she’s telling her story as a warning to others. 7’s Brian Entin investigates.

Like so many of us, Lissette Riquelme has stress, so she decided to unwind at this East Hollywood Massage Envy.

Lissette Riquelme, warning women: “Aches and pain on my upper back, so I ended up going there for a massage.”

Lissette removed her clothes and covered herself with a sheet before her massage therapist came into the room.

She says not long after the massage started, he started complimenting her.

Lissette Riquelme: “‘The texture of your skin is great.’ And he said, ‘I wish a lot of my clients were a lot like you.'”

Lissette says the therapist recommended a Thai massage to relieve tightness.

Moments later, she says he got on top of her.

Lissette Riquelme: “I feel his body weight go forward on me, on my back. And then I feel his breathing, kind of like over my neck area. Two seconds, three seconds … I feel him, just basically getting an erection over my tailbone. When I felt him get the erection, I knew something was wrong.”

Lissette knew she needed to act quickly.

Lissette Riquelme: “I instantly thought I need to get him off me, so I jerked my back up. I said to him, ‘Oh my God,’ you know, I said, ‘I can’t breathe.'”

She called Hollywood Police — and they are now investigating.

In a statement to 7News, Massage Envy said: “While we can’t comment on an active investigation, we can tell you that the therapist is no longer employed by the franchised location.”

The company added they “remain focused on the commitment to safety” and highlighted its work with the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the country.

Lissette Riquelme: “We as women, or anybody, shouldn’t have to fear being sexually violated in the dark.”

Massage therapists are licensed by the Florida Department of Health. And they say women should be careful no matter where they’re getting a massage. So far this year, in Broward and Miami-Dade counties — seven massage therapists have been investigated for inappropriate sexual behavior.

7News dug into the records of the most recent South Florida complaints.

A Miami massage therapist allegedly “rubbed” his female client’s “feet” on his “genital area.”

In another case, investigators say a Pembroke Pines therapist “slid his oiled and ungloved hand under” a woman’s “bikini bottom, touching her pubic area.”

Judge: “Juan Pablo Mendiz.”

And this Dania Beach man is charged with lewd or lascivious battery. Police say he digitally penetrated his client against her will.

Brian Entin: “Do you think it’s happening more often?”

Kathryn Holcomb-Kirby, Florida State Massage Therapy Association: “I don’t know if it’s happening more often, but I believe there is a lot more reporting happening on it right now. I think people are coming forward, which is a great thing.”

Kathryn Holcomb-Kirby is on the board of the Florida State Massage Therapy Association.

She urges clients to research massage therapists, ask for references and talk with your therapist about what to expect before starting a massage.

And if something inappropriate happens — report it to the police just like Lissette did.

Lissette Riquelme: “I feel like it was a violation, a sexual violation that was performed on me against my will.”

Hollywood Police assigned a detective to the case.

No arrest has been made.

For more information, including how to search for massage therapist discipline or file a complaint, go to the links below.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Florida Board of Massage Therapy
http://floridasmassagetherapy.gov

Verify License/Check for Discipline
https://appsmqa.doh.state.fl.us/MQASearchServices/Home

File a Complaint
https://www.flhealthcomplaint.gov

Florida State Massage Therapy Association
https://www.fsmta.org

CONTACT INVESTIGATES:
305-627-CLUE
954-921-CLUE
clue@wsvn.com

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