On July 12, Jessica Recinos walked into an establishment for a routine massage. She had no idea that she would be left traumatized.
“I can’t believe that happened to me,” Recinos says with a shaky voice, as she recounted being sexually assaulted by a female massage therapist at Healthy the Chinese Medicine Massage, a business located on Geneva Avenue in San Francisco’s Excelsior District. “I’m such a strong person… I’m someone who always teaches their students to stand up for themselves to speak their truth, and defend themselves when they can. And I felt like, wow, I couldn’t speak.”
Recinos — a beloved community member, educator, and CEO of the dance company, Rising Rhythm — had visited the establishment many times before. “I was referred to this place by a friend years ago, well before the pandemic,” she explains. “I’ve had several massages there, but always done by the owners.”
But this time, a different therapist, a new face among the staff, had promised Recinos a “VIP massage.” Clueless about what that meant, Recinos expected an extended session or some unique technique.
Instead, she was assaulted.
“People often ask, ‘Why didn’t you say something? Why didn’t you defend yourself?’ But in that moment, I felt paralyzed,” says Recinos, voicing a sentiment that many survivors often face. “I wondered if it was just their technique or if I should endure it. But I knew something was wrong when memories of a past trauma re-surfaced…Instead of leaving refreshed, I felt more tense, stressed, and exhausted.”
Following her assault, Recinos filed a police report at the SFPD Ingleside station, and filed separate reports with the Department of Public Health and the office of District 11 Supervisor, Ahsha Safai.
The California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC), a public benefit nonprofit organization responsible for voluntary certification of individual massage professionals, was reached for comments regarding the allegations against the massage business.
“CAMTC takes complaints of sexual assault very seriously and works every day to ensure that sexual predators are not Certified,” said a representative from CAMTC in an email to El Tecolote. “Although the CAMTC’s primary role is to certify individual professionals, the regulation of massage establishments falls under the domain of local cities and counties.”
But despite the reports and efforts to have the business shut down, the wheels of justice have been slow to turn.
“If you’re not healing us in an already historically marginalized, underrepresented neighborhood, then you can just get out of here,” Recinos says. “We don’t need you because we heal each other, and that’s all we got.”
Concerns about the establishment’s safety towards the customers aren’t new. An alarming Yelp review hints at another customer’s troubling experience, raising further questions about the venue’s environment.
“I was molested here (yesterday)! I feel so uncomfortable writing this but I hope no one else goes through what I went through,” wrote Yelp user Meena A. on Dec. 30, 2022. “ I hope this review helps, please be careful.”
After the incident, old traumas resurfaced for Recinos, making the recent pain even more profound. Her love for dance, which brings her joy and pride, now feels triggering at times. “It’s been really hard to show up for my career and share and hold space for others when I can barely hold space for myself,” she says, sharing the toll on her finances as well. “I’m trying so hard to stay afloat, but it’s tough.”
Despite the anguish, Recinos remains determined.
“I can speak up and bring change to my neighborhood. We must rally together, shut this place down entirely, and make sure no one else goes through this,” she says. “I worry that this might happen to someone else if they go there and the place is still open. To be honest, it gives me anxiety even thinking about it.
“They need to recognize that they, or their staff, have harmed individuals,” she continues. “I’ve put so much effort into establishing a safe cultural space on Geneva Avenue. A place where youth and adults can express themselves through music, dance, and healing. I can’t imagine my business being beside one that inflicts harm on people.”
Sexual violence isn’t merely a criminal justice concern—it’s a public health and social justice crisis that demands the unwavering attention of communities everywhere. If you or anyone you know believes a massage professional in California has sexually assaulted them, the CAMTC urges you to file a complaint on their website under the “File a Complaint” section. For additional resources, see our list below:
San Francisco Women Against Rape
Hotline: 415-647-RAPE (7273)
San Francisco Women Against Rape provides resources, support, advocacy, and education to those who are victims of sexual violence.
Trauma Recovery Center -(Mission District)
Call: (415) 437-3000
The Trauma Recovery Center offers services for adult survivors of trauma, violence, and loss through an innovative, clinically proven comprehensive care, advocacy, and outreach model, including mental health and medical services.
La Casa de las Madres (South of Market)
Call: 1-877-503-1850 (ADULT CRISIS LINE)
1-877-923-0700 (TEEN CRISIS LINE)
The mission of La Casa de las Madres is to respond to calls for help from domestic violence victims of all ages, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They provide emergency shelter, legal assistance, and counseling for domestic violence survivors.