Liz Farrell

An open letter to the Hilton Head massage client who ‘said something’ | Opinion

A woman getting dressed after a massage at a Hilton Head Island spa on Oct. 14 noticed a cellphone that seemed oddly placed.

She decided to investigate.

When she picked up the phone, she discovered the video camera was activated and it had been recording her.

Think about what that moment must have been like for her.

The words “surprising,” “confusing” and “surreal” come to mind.

“Horrifying” is probably a good descriptor.

“Unsettling” is another.

“Frightening,” “violating,” “infuriating,” “disheartening” are others.

I could go on.

In an instant, the trust she had placed in a longtime and well-known professional, an established business and a common service had been broken.

It’s easy to picture yourself in her scenario if you’ve ever been to a spa.

After a massage, the lights are dim, and serene music is playing.

Your mind is sleepy and calm. Your body feels blissfully heavy.

“Take your time,” a massage therapist will usually say before closing the door and leaving.

So you do.

You are alone in the room.

There is no need for modesty.

You might get up slowly from the table, perhaps in stages. You might stretch and enjoy the newfound lack of tension in your shoulders and back. You might stand and breathe deeply, savoring the last few minutes of the experience before you get dressed again.

Those of us who’ve ever been to a spa know how wonderful the post-massage haze is.

Which is why it is so unconscionable to think that a massage therapist — the person paid to bring you to this relaxed state — would ever exploit the moment.

Which is why many of us are asking: “What would I have done if this had happened to me?”

The woman who discovered she was being recorded had the presence of mind to text the video to her phone and delete it from the massage therapist’s phone.

She then confronted the man.

She asked him why he was recording her.

He told her it was unintentional.

She told him she was going to the police.

And then she did.

Several years ago in an unrelated case, a Hilton Head man was charged with breaking into homes, peeping through windows and filming unsuspecting women while they were in various states of undress.

Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office investigators seized more than a dozen videotapes from the man’s apartment and, to identify victims, created binders of still photos showing the women’s faces.

Deputies took the photos door to door in areas where the man had been know to frequent. Potential victims visited the sheriff’s office to see if they were among those he had secretly filmed.

I remember feeling so angry on behalf of those women because, of all the crimes against humanity, voyeurism is among the most insidious.

When you are punched in the face by a stranger, you know you’ve been punched in the face by a stranger.

You can react accordingly and immediately. The pain is definable. It is relatable.

Voyeurism, however, is different.

It catches victims unaware and in a moment of extreme privacy.

It not only steals their power to fight back in the moment, it robs them of the freedom to trust their surroundings in the future.

They weren’t physically harmed, but the damage is there.

The full extent of the damage caused by Martin David Crocker, the Hilton Head massage therapist charged with voyeurism, is not yet known, according to investigators.

The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office says there could be upwards of 50 unwitting victims.

What is known, however, is the debt of gratitude owed to the woman who said something.

Her gut told her there was a problem.

She was quick-thinking and bold.

She was brave and unwavering.

And because of that, she possibly prevented more women from being filmed.

Hilton Head has a new hero.

Whoever you are, thank you.

Columnist and senior editor Liz Farrell graduated from Gettysburg College with a degree in political science and writes about a wide range of topics, including Bravo’s “Southern Charm.” She has lived in the Lowcountry for 15 years, but still feels like a fraud when she accidentally says “y’all.”