Massage therapist jailed for repeatedly molesting stepdaughter on the pretext of TCM treatment
SINGAPORE: Over several years, a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) massage therapist molested his stepdaughter on the pretext of treating her, telling her she suffered "imbalance" or was possessed by an evil spirit.
The 44-year-old man was sentenced to two years' jail and nine strokes of the cane on Friday (Nov 4).
He pleaded guilty to three counts of molestation, with another three charges taken into consideration. He cannot be named to protect the identity of the victim.
The court heard that the offender married the victim's mother sometime between 2010 and 2011. They had a son together, born in 2016.
The victim had been under the care of her maternal family overseas between 2006 and 2012 but was abused by her family. In particular, she was not allowed to contact her mother, and was told that her mother did not want her.
Eventually, the victim's mother arranged for the victim to return to Singapore in December 2012. She learnt that her mother had remarried the accused and moved in with them.
In the week that she first moved in, the offender claimed that he observed an "imbalance" in the victim's shoulders.
The victim told him that she had previously injured her hand during a Physical Education class.
The offender massaged the victim's hand in front of her mother, on the basis of relieving the pain.
HE CLAIMED HE NEEDED TO UNCLOG ARTERY
In January 2013, the offender was home alone with the victim. He massaged the victim on the pretext of alleviating the injury.
He then claimed that the chest area needs to be massaged according to TCM practices, to "unclog" the artery that was causing pain.
He then molested the victim by massaging her. The victim felt uncomfortable but believed his explanation on why such a massage was needed. She was 17 at the time.
After this, the offender began asking the victim to massage his private parts, and she would comply.
In August 2014, the offender contacted the victim and asked her to head over, saying that she was possessed by an evil spirit and he needed to massage her.
The victim had an amulet that was broken at the time, so she believed her stepfather that she was possessed and needed the massage.
The man then molested her while massaging her. The victim fidgeted and expressed resistance but he told her there was "no choice" and that it had to be done to remove the evil spirit.
In September 2019, the victim was in a minor car accident and was injured. Her stepfather again molested her on the pretext of massaging her.
He massaged her buttocks, claiming that the "qi" had moved to her buttocks and he needed to massage it away. The victim believed that the massage was for her injury.
However, the offender quickly pulled up the victim's shorts when his wife entered the room, causing the victim to feel that something was weird.
VICTIM REALISES SEXUAL CONDUCT WAS WRONG
In June 2020, the victim came to know of a case involving a sex act in a massage salon. She realised that her stepfather's sexual conduct towards her was wrong.
However, she did not tell her mother as she was afraid it would result in a divorce and in her mother abandoning her. She also did not want to ruin her younger brother's future.
The victim and her mother later planned to move out from the family home. However, the victim realised there were financial difficulties preventing this from happening.
She felt frustrated, and told her mother in January 2021 that she wanted to move out without her stepfather coming along.
The next day, the victim's mother discovered the victim crying in the toilet. After leaving for work, the victim's mother sent the victim a text message to check on her.
It was then that the victim told her about being molested by the offender. The victim lodged a police report and her mother confronted the offender, who apologised to the victim via a text message.
The prosecution said that normal TCM practices and teachings do not encourage practitioners to use points near the chest for shoulder injuries.
It is also generally not recommended for a person to massage on or near the private areas of patients. TCM also does not engage in the concept of evil spirits, said the prosecutor.
The victim suffered from generalised anxiety disorder since January 2021 and was referred to a psychologist for therapy, the court heard.
The prosecutor asked for 24 to 28 months' jail, with nine strokes of the cane, citing the degree of sexual exploitation and the abuse of trust both as a father figure and as a TCM massage therapist.