A massage therapist working at the Ritz-Carlton spa in New Orleans has been arrested after a customer accused him of masturbating and ejaculating on her feet as she lay on his table for an evening massage last year, The Times-Picayune reported.
Charles Russo, 30, was booked Sunday and charged with sexual battery following a 16-month investigation by New Orleans police. An NOPD sex crimes detective obtained an arrest warrant in May, along with a search warrant to be served on the five-star hotel for Russo’s employee evaluations and disciplinary records.
The woman told police she reported Russo’s act to hotel staff and security, but “wasn’t assisted with any police action.” The detective said he learned Russo previously had been disciplined after a different patron reported “sexual advances,” but he had been allowed to continue working at the upscale French Quarter spa.
A New Orleans Police Department detective said in the warrant that he interviewed someone identified as “Ms. Russo,” who told him that the married Charles Russo had been “the subject of a sexual assault allegation in the past at the same hotel.” The detective added in the warrant that he “interviewed a staff person who corroborated the statement.”
A spa must not allow a massage therapist accused of sexual assault to continue to have unfettered access to vulnerable women. Many of the women I have represented in massage sexual assault cases reported experiencing a “freeze response” during and after the assault.
This is a stress response experienced by many victims of sexual assault, especially those who were assaulted while they were in a particularly relaxed and vulnerable position, like during a massage. Sexual predators know that when victims experience a “freeze response”, they sometimes feel compliant because they did not actively resist, which makes it even more difficult to come forward and expose the predator.
The important message for victims of massage sexual assault is that it is not your fault. It is never easy to come forward after sexual abuse, but by exposing predators and those who protect them, lives will be saved.