SINGAPORE - Under the guise of giving her a massage, a 35-year-old masseur molested a woman repeatedly, rubbing her breasts more than 10 times over the span of a minute.
Hu Xidong, a masseur at Zufu Foot Reflexology, was sentenced on Monday (May 14) to nine months' jail and three strokes of the cane for outraging the modesty of a 28-year-old woman.
Two other charges for outrage of modesty were also taken into consideration during sentencing.
The woman, a Japanese national, had visited the outlet at Beach Road and requested a foot and upper back massage on July 19, 2016.
While she had visited the outlet before, it was the first time the victim had asked for an upper back massage and she was not sure of the procedure involved, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Eunice Lau.
After massaging her feet for about 40 minutes, Hu instructed her to go to a massage bed in a separate, curtained area.
Based on her past experiences at other massage centres, the victim went to the area and removed her clothing, leaving only her underwear on.
She then lay face-down on the bed and placed a towel over over the back of her body, covering herself from her shoulder blades to her buttocks in preparation for the massage.
After a while, Hu entered the area and began massaging her.
At some point during the massage, he removed her towel, pulled her underwear down and continued to massage her.
The woman did not know how to react as she was not sure if this was out of the ordinary, said DPP Lau.
Hu then told her to flip over, and she did so, covering herself with the towel and tucking it under her arms.
But after massaging her head and shoulder for a few moments, he suddenly removed the towel, and rubbed her breasts for at least a minute. While she knew that this was not part of the massage, she was too panicked and shocked to react, said DPP Lau.
Immediately after the session ended, the woman left the area and attempted to tell the receptionist about her ordeal.
However, the receptionist could not understand English, the court heard.
She lodged a police report later that night, after discussing the matter with her roommates.
DPP Lau told the court that the incident showed an "abuse of trust in a customer-masseur relationship", as the victim was in a situation where it is "difficult…to discern ill intentions".
Lawyer Julian Lim, who represented Hu, said that his client - who suffers from an anxiety disorder and had been "distracted and inattentive" during the session - had mistakenly believed that the woman had requested a full body massage, and absent-mindedly acted as such.
The woman also did not voice out any discomfort during the session, added Mr Lim.
But District Judge Kenneth Yap said in response that being anxious and stressed did not give Hu a licence to "absent-mindedly molest people".
He also noted that a psychiatrist found no causal link between Hu's condition and his actions.
Before handing out his sentence, Judge Yap told Hu that as a professional, it was incumbent upon him to ensure that nothing that could have been perceived as inappropriate should have taken place without active consent.
"As a professional, you should know better," he added.
Hu will begin serving his sentence on May 21.
For outraging the woman's modesty, he could have faced up to two years' jail, a fine, caning, or a combination of the three.
The case follows a string of cases where professionals engaged in activities that require direct skin contact outraged the modesty of their clients. In March this year, a physiotherapist was jailed for molesting an 18-year-old woman during a session.
In November last year, a part-time massage therapist was jailed for molesting a woman who had gone to a healthcare centre near her home for neck and shoulder pain.