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Monday, February 26, 2024 | Back issues
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Woman Says Massage Therapist Assaulted Her

BEAUFORT, S.C. (CN) - A massage therapist sexually assaulted a customer by touching her private areas and penetrating her with his fingers during a massage session, the alleged victim claims in court.

Although the therapist had allegedly sexually assaulted customers before, the spa continued to give him access to female customers without supervision, according to the complaint.

Jane Doe sued The Art of Massage, The Art of Yoga and Darrell Patrick Lewis, in the Beaufort County Court of Common Pleas.

The defendant companies operate The Art of Massage and Yoga Therapy, a spa and wellness yoga studio in the town of Hilton Head Island, a popular tourist destination in southeastern South Carolina. The spa's services include massages, facial treatments, body treatments and yoga therapy, according to the company's website.

Doe says she traveled to Hilton Head in August 2014 with her family and booked a massage session at The Art of Massage spa. Lewis, who worked for the spa at the time, performed Doe's massage, according to the lawsuit.

Doe says she was shocked when Lewis began touching her private areas during the session.

"During plaintiff's massage, defendant Lewis sexually assaulted plaintiff by inappropriately touching her genitals and digitally penetrating her," the complaint states. "Plaintiff entered into a state of shock at the time of these violations of her person and was effectively immobilized and rendered incapable of protesting or attempting to cease the assault."

Doe claims that the spa knew that Lewis was a "dangerous sexual predator" who posed a serious threat to female spa customers, but failed to protect or warn her.

Lewis was arrested in February 2012 and charged with two felony counts of assault and battery stemming from similar incidents in which Lewis sexually assaulted female customers at the spa, the lawsuit says.

Nevertheless, Doe claims, the spa let Lewis continue to provide services to female customers without supervision, which led to plaintiff's sexual assault.

Lewis, a Beaufort County resident, is not listed as an employee on the company's website. According to the complaint, Lewis's wife is the registered agent for both The Art of Massage and The Art of Yoga.

Doe seeks punitive damages for negligence, negligent hiring and supervision and emotional distress.

She is represented by W. Mullins McLeod Jr. of Charleston, S.C.

An employee of the spa said she was unaware of the allegations and declined to comment. The company's management could not be reached for comment.

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