Over five million incidences of domestic violence happen each year. Three women are murdered every day by significant others. Between 85-95 percent of domestic violence victims are women. Domestic violence occurs every nine seconds in the United States. These are pretty staggering statistics. Physical, verbal and sexual abuse is very real for those who work in domestic violence. An abuser uses abuse to achieve power and control.
What does this have to do with massage? Recently, the massage students in the Pregnancy and Special Populations class at Globe University-Moorhead worked with Daria Odegaard from the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center. The purpose of the session was to give the students tools to use in their professional setting should a client or employee present signs of potential abuse. It is also to realize that “Special Populations” is a very inclusive term. Professionals need to be ready for everything.
“If someone discloses that they have had an experience like those listed above, the best thing to do is to listen,” Odegaard shared, “The best thing to say is, ‘It’s not your fault’. We have to believe the survivors.”
People rarely lie about the violence. Less than 2 percent are actually false allegations. These are the same percentage as any other false felony allegations.
Safety becomes a first priority. Ultimately, the individual needs to make the decision to their next steps of actions. While we always want to help and make things better, it has to be the individual. Make eye contact, ask direct questions in a very non-confrontational way such as, “I see you have some bruising, can I ask if you are safe?”
As massage therapists often see clients in very personal setting and often sees the bruising, they are in a position to help from a trained professional perspective.
Those who have experienced significant trauma such as violence have a very heightened sense of touch. A professional massage therapist needs to know how to look for that in some situations.
Sometimes when people are hiding the abuse, there are still signs such as bruising on places like the sides or inner thighs. People can get very good at hiding abuse.
The massage therapist students learned to look at their clients in a professional way and remove their personal experiences. Massage therapists are not allowed to diagnose but can give advice through recommendations. Instructor Toby Mulvihill helped the students draw the line as to what is allowed by law as opposed to steps that could get the student into legal trouble.
“Our students can’t prescribe and they can’t diagnose, but it is our job as a professional to lend an ear,” Mulvihill stated. “There are multiple kinds of personal situations that come up, and I want to give our students an idea of what is out there.”
We are all entitled to protect ourselves and each other from harm.
Mulvihill’s parting comments, “We offer a healing touch and help people to remember the value of a good touch.”