By Aska Smith and Anita Woo
On January 24, 2016, Jeremy Tali Davis was accused of the sexual battery of a client during a massage. The alleged victim decided to get a deep-tissue massage after suffering an injury from her activity as a triathlon athlete at the University of California, Davis. Mr. Davis was the massage therapist assigned to the victim on January 24.
The prosecution’s position during the opening statement was clear – certain jobs give people power and authority. When a job requires the employee to touch the client, there is an implied trust given to the employee. Davis breached that trust when he allegedly touched the victim’s vaginal area.
While the upper back massage seemed normal, Davis allegedly began to glide his hands over the client’s calves. When she switched from facing down to facing up, Davis told her he was going to give her an inner thigh massage. He continued to touch her inner thighs, eventually going underneath her underwear to touch her vaginal region.
Davis attempted to kiss her forehead, at which point the victim told him to stop and left the facility. The prosecution argued there was no DNA evidence in this case since Davis did not penetrate her – there was no semen or other bodily fluids. After the victim left the facility, her friends consoled her and told her to contact the police. According to the prosecution, Davis abused his power as a massage therapist.
In contrast, the defense argued that Davis did not violate the alleged victim during the massage. On March 9, 2016, Davis was confronted by the police about this incident and arrested. The Massage Heights owner disregarded the victim’s mother’s allegations of this violation, since he knew that Mr. Davis would not abuse his power.
Jeremy Davis has been a licensed massage therapist for almost six years and no other similar incident occurred before. Davis has a great reputation for ensuring privacy.
For example, clients typically start facing down on their stomach and have to switch positions and face up. During this position changing, Davis’ other clients said Davis would look away and put a towel up to protect his client’s privacy. Furthermore, the police did not obtain the victim’s underwear from that day. Davis did not penetrate the victim. However, if he placed his hands under her underwear to touch her intimate area, DNA would have been present.
The victim was a UC Davis student at the time of the incident. She was part of UC Davis’ triathlon club and focused on mostly half-Ironmans. Training as a triathlon athlete, she attended organized practices in addition to training on her own. The training was time consuming and physically demanding.
Throughout her experience, she sustained many injuries. In January of 2016 she was coming off an injury that made her IT Band (iliotibial band, the large tendon running down the side of the leg from the hip) extra tight. She attempted to relieve the discomfort and pain by foam rolling, stretching, icing, trying a number of techniques – but ultimately realizing her efforts were not enough. Thus, she sought out a deep-tissue massage. She previously had had massages, however, this was the first deep-tissue massage she ever received.
She had received a massage from Massage Heights (in the Davis location, now closed) before, but from a different massage therapist than Jeremy Davis. The massage occurred in a small closed-off room where there were no windows and dim lighting, with the table being in the center of the room. She told Davis to focus on her IT Band. Initially, the massage seemed normal – Davis talked about his past track experience and asked about the victim’s triathlon experience. The victim was lying down on her stomach (facing down) as the small talk continued.
Davis began massaging her shoulder blades and then moved onto massaging her calf muscle. Although the upper back massage was strong, the calf muscle massage was not very strong. The movement appeared to be a gliding motion up and down the calf. As stated, the alleged victim had not had a deep-tissue massage before, so trusted the gliding was part of the massage since Davis had told her he had five years of massage experience.
While Davis was massaging her calves, he allegedly pressed his groin against her foot. During the gliding, his penis became erect. The victim, feeling uncomfortable, was very tense and was trying to flex her foot away from his groin. She knew it was the groin area because she felt a belt and pant-like material.
by Anita Woo
Although the alleged victim felt Mr.Davis pressed each sole of her feet onto his erect penis for ten minutes, nevertheless the total time amounted to significantly less than the time spent on massaging her shoulders. Yet, throughout the entire massage Mr. Davis never massaged the source of her injury, her IT Band (the tendon stretching from the outer thigh to the knee). After the unasked-for calf massage, the victim was told to flip over. While she turned, Mr. Davis lifted the sheets and looked away to preserve her privacy. He even let the sheet drop so he would not come into contact with her skin, to retain her privacy.
Once the victim was comfortable and had a towel covering her eyes, Davis switched his gilding massage onto her upper knee and inner thigh. The victim noticed the massage becoming more off due to his light pressure. It felt more like a touch and didn’t reach her deep tissue. She grew more alarmed when he lifted her leg into a tucking position and then away from her body so it was flat on the table. Mr. Davis claimed he would now give her an inner thigh massage. He resumed a circular gliding motion on her inner thighs and eventually made contact with her vaginal area.
The alleged victim never had this procedure happen to her nor had she requested an inner thigh massage. She knew something was wrong but didn’t speak up due to Mr. Davis’s reputation and experience. Davis then leaned in, which the victim determined from his dreadlocks hitting her shoulder and his breath on her cheek. The victim firmly insisted “NO,” causing Mr. Davis to immediately back off apologizing, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I was following your lead.” She demanded he leave and Davis exited the room. The victim was left feeling violated.
During cross-examination, Mr. Davis’ defense attorney questioned whether the alleged victim heard Davis moan, speak or peek throughout the massage or when she was turning. The victim admitted she hadn’t heard or seen any such reaction from Mr. Davis. He was professional, especially when she was turning onto her back. He didn’t flirt or groan, even when he allegedly put her feet on his penis.
The defense lawyer emphasized that Mr. Davis maintained his professionalism by apologizing and leaving the room upon his client’s request at the end. Mr. Davis would not suddenly decide to damage his six years of reputation by randomly assaulting a new client.