Patient ‘frozen and terrified’ during sexual misconduct by former massage therapist, discipline notice says
WARNING: This story contains descriptions of sexual misconduct that some people might find distressing.
A former Metro Vancouver massage therapist committed misconduct by massaging the genitals of three female patients, misleading investigators and making a medical diagnosis without the proper credentials, his professional college has found.
Steven Anderson of Burnaby, B.C., also inserted his finger into a patient’s anus, removed blackheads from another’s back and failed to keep necessary records of his treatments, according to a recent discipline notice from the College of Massage Therapists of B.C.
At hearings before a college discipline committee panel, one woman testified that Anderson told her he was massaging inside her labia to help with fertility, when she had no fertility concerns and was seeking treatment for back pain.
She “described feeling completely frozen and terrified. She wanted it to stop but knew she could not protect herself because of how bad her back was,” a May 18 decision from the panel says.
Anderson’s registered massage therapy (RMT) licence was cancelled in February 2019 for non-renewal of his registration, according to the college.
A month earlier, his registration had been suspended. The decision shows that Anderson nonetheless performed a massage on an undercover investigator during that time while holding himself out to be licensed.
Anderson gave ‘entirely implausible’ testimony
The panel’s decision runs for 80 pages, detailing Anderson’s professional misconduct, unprofessional conduct and violations of the college’s bylaws and standards during his treatment of six patients between 2014 and 2018.
The decision describes Anderson as “evasive” and “not a credible witness” during hearings last year, and says some of his testimony “was not only inconsistent with other oral and documentary evidence but entirely implausible.”
The detailed findings in the decision include Anderson’s “sexual touching” of three patients without their consent.
One of the women told the panel that Anderson had massaged her vulva at length, and after the appointment, “she recalls shaking at the bus stop and trying not to cry,” the decision says.
Another, herself an RMT and a former student of Anderson’s when he was an instructor at the West Coast College of Massage Therapy, testified that when she realized Anderson’s fingers were inside her vagina, “I started tensing up, slid up the table … trying to get away from his hand.”
Massage therapists in B.C. are not permitted to perform internal pelvic floor massages. Anderson has not been affiliated with the West Coast College of Massage Therapy since 2001, according to the college.
The panel also heard from a male patient who visited Anderson because of pain in his back, hips, shoulders and neck. Over the course of a number of treatments, Anderson diagnosed his hip pain as being the result of avascular necrosis — or “bone death,” according to the decision.
Anderson told the panel his assessment was based on his recollection of an injury suffered by pro baseball and football player Bo Jackson, but admitted he had no empirical evidence to support that conclusion.
Making medical diagnoses is not within the scope of practice for massage therapy in B.C.
During his treatment of the same patient, Anderson inserted a finger inside the man’s anus and massaged the inside of his rectum.
In its investigation of Anderson’s treatment of five patients, the college discipline panel found he had failed to create and maintain sufficient records of their health history and treatment plans.
In the cases of all six patients included in the decision, Anderson provided misleading information to college investigators about his clinical records.
The college has yet to decide on what penalties Anderson will face for his misconduct. He has until July 4 to provide the college with submissions about how he should be disciplined.