Patients allege sexual misconduct by Burnaby massage therapist
Women described feeling 'frozen' from fear during their appointments
WARNING: This article contains details of sexual misconduct.
A Burnaby massage therapist is being formally reprimanded for allegations of sexual misconduct with three patients, along with diagnosing ailments for which he wasn’t qualified.
In a decision by the College of Massage Therapists of BC (CMTBC), first reported by CBC, a panel found the evidence before it proved the claims against Steven Anderson. They further found that he obstructed the panel’s investigation and “failed to respond to inquiries, requests, and directions” from the college in “a professional and responsive manner.”
A decision on Anderson’s penalties is expected after submissions are made by Anderson and the college by July 11.
The allegations revolve around five women and a man who saw Anderson for massage therapy starting in 2014.
That includes three patients, AA, BB, and CC, who saw Anderson in 2014 and accused him of sexual touching—and all three described feeling “frozen” during the incidents.
And a fourth patient, DD, testified that Anderson massaged the inside of his anus.
The panel said the allegations were “particularly troubling” because Anderson knew massage therapists were not allowed to perform internal massage.
In fact, he had described himself to the panel as one of five RMTs in the province that was trained in “internal pelvic floor work,” and he had been involved in efforts to lobby the government to include that practice as a restricted act within massage therapy.
“There would be no need to lobby the government to add the restricted act if that was already permitted,” the panel wrote
‘Ew, no thank you’
AA testified to the CMTBC panel that Anderson had spoken to her, a registered massage therapist herself, about performing pelvic floor work on two other patients.
“Ew, no thank you, not for me,” AA reportedly responded at the time, indicating that she would not do that work as an RMT for her patients.
During their final session, in September 2014, AA testified feeling, very suddenly, him massaging the inside of her vagina. As a result, she tensed up and “slid up the table, trying to get away from his hand.”
“AA testified that ‘nothing was said,’ ‘zero words were said.’ She described herself as frozen,” the panel wrote.
The panel wrote that, while his records made no indication of the therapeutic basis of the action, he claimed to have been treating an injury to a hip joint muscle he believed was sustained during childbirth. AA, however, testified that no physician has ever told her she had an injury from childbirth, and she never suggested to Anderson that she had.
BB and CC reported similar interactions with Anderson, with BB experiencing an escalation over the course of four appointments.
“BB felt the respondent touching her more ‘forward in the groin area,’ towards the front of her body and adjacent to her vaginal opening,” the panel wrote of the final appointment.
“BB felt a sensation through her body of climax. There was no conversation between the respondent and BB when this was taking place. BB testified feeling frozen. Shortly after that the massage ended.”
The patient testified that, after leaving the appointment, she was “shaking at the bus stop and trying not to cry.”
‘Completely frozen and terrified’
CC said she went to see Anderson to treat lower back spasms, and during their only session together, she felt him picking at her back to remove a blackhead before massaging inside her labia.
She testified that he told her he “did internal work to assist with fertility,” even though she had never mentioned infertility and wasn’t seeking to get pregnant at the time.
“CC described feeling completely frozen and terrified. She wanted it to stop, but she knew she could not protect herself because of how bad her back was,” the panel wrote.
DD’s experience appears to have been somewhat different, after he came to Anderson for back, hip, shoulder, and neck pain. In his case, there was some discussion of internal massage through his anus and some level of consent, albeit ill-informed consent.
Anderson told DD there was a lack of blood flow to his hip, which could cause further issues, according to the decision. He reportedly told DD that he could address the issue through external massage or by internally massaging through the anus.
DD didn’t initially challenge the validity of this assessment, and after two unsuccessful sessions with the external approach, “DD told the respondent that they might as well try the other approach, if the respondent thinks it is the right way to proceed.”
Diagnosing as a massage therapist
In DD’s case, Anderson reportedly diagnosed him with avascular necrosis, something that a physician did not diagnose after conducting a bone scan.
In this case, Anderson was also found to have wrongfully diagnosed a patient beyond the scope of his practice.
In all four cases, he was found to have failed to maintain records of the patients’ histories and treatment plans. And he was found to have “provided misleading information to the CMTBC investigator regarding the clinical medical records that he had produced in relation to his treatment” of the patients.
In 2019, after Anderson’s licence was suspended, an investigator attended the clinic acting undercover with the pseudonym Jessica Chan. Upon calling the clinic and being answered by Anderson, she asked about booking an appointment with an RMT. Anderson responded, “Um, kind of sort of. I’m not 100% RMT anymore,” and referenced a “kinesiology consult,” according to the decision.
Upon attending, Chan testified that she did not see any notice in the clinic that Anderson’s registration was suspended, and he had continued to perform massage therapy despite his suspension.