WJTV News Channel 12 - 8 on Your Side investigation inspires new law banning sex offend

8 on Your Side investigation inspires new law banning sex offenders from massage therapy

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Lisa Speigel Lisa Speigel

Lisa Spiegel told 8 on Your Side it was bad enough when a massage therapist sexually battered her on his table last year.

"I felt helpless and frightened," said Spiegel.

It didn't help to find out the therapist who molested her went back to work at a new spa in St .Petersburg even after becoming a registered sex offender and starting probation.

"It's crazy," Spiegel said. "Absolutely crazy."

That won't happen again thanks to a new law signed Friday by Governor Rick Scott. The legislation was inspired by an 8 on Your Side investigation of Spiegel's complaint.

"After I contacted you I felt more calm I guess that somebody was on my side and ready to help me fight," said Spiegel.

Our investigation uncovered seven other registered sex offenders who has state licenses for massage therapy despite their criminal histories.

One therapist from Clearwater wasn't allowed by the courts to be alone with his own daughter, but the DOH allowed him to be with anyone else's daughter as a licensed massage therapist. Florida Department of Health workers told us they didn't have the authority to deny licenses to that offender and others like him.

Pinellas State Senator Jack Latvala and Pinellas State Representative Carl Zimmerman both thought that was wrong, got involved, and sponsored a bill to put some teeth in the DOH regulation of massage therapists.

The legislation bans sex offenders and some other criminals form practicing in the massage profession and also requires criminal background checks and fingerprinting for applicants. Law enforcement will also notify the DOH if therapists are arrested.

Spiegel told 8 on Your Side she's glad she went public with her assault, helped protect other women, and maybe even inspire them.

"Maybe they can feel strength to fight things that are happening to them," Spiegel said. "Maybe they can go forward and make some changes as well--to make the laws change."

The massage therapist legislation takes effect July 1st. There are currently five registered sex offenders who will lose their massage licenses under the new law.

"I just feel grateful," said Spiegel.

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