The University of Kansas’ chancellor and athletics director said Thursday they were “deeply troubled” by findings of an internal inquiry into a massage therapist who worked as an independent contractor with female students in the Jayhawks’ athletics program.
Arrest and charging of the Lawrence therapist in Douglas County District Court on one count of aggravated indecent liberties with a child prompted the KU examination and a subsequent decision to terminate the man’s employment with the university.
The therapist, 48-year-old Shawn P. O’Brien, had provided massage services to some female athletes since 2015. He operated a business called Medissage-Kamehameha Massage LLC in Lawrence.
“Though still in the early stages of this process, we are deeply troubled by what we have learned so far,” Chancellor Doug Girod and athletic director Jeff Long said in a joint statement. “At this time, we are providing support to our student-athletes, parents and staff who have been impacted by this therapist’s association with the university.”
KU officials had responded to the arrest Saturday, which was first reported by the Lawrence Journal-World, by contacting student-athletes and authorizing the internal investigation handed over to an independent outside entity not identified by the university.
Long and Girod said the university’s inquiry would include an effort to better understand the therapist’s conduct and to determine if anyone affiliated with the university was aware of inappropriate behavior by the accused.
All KU employees are mandatory reporters of sexual assault and sexual harassment. The KU athletics department has protocols and required training programs focused on students’ safety and the necessity of reporting inappropriate behavior.
“If these processes failed us in this instance, we will find out why,” the statement from Long and Girod said. “The safety and well-being of students, faculty and staff is our paramount responsibility as university leaders.”
The Lawrence Police Department’s charging affidavit in the case indicated the Kansas Department for Children and Families interviewed the victim in June 2018 about allegations against O’Brien. The document said a DCF employee said the victim said O’Brien touched her under her clothing in what was described as a “massage.”
The victim told authorities she was told not to tell anyone about the conduct because “massages were really expensive” and she should consider herself fortunate because she received therapy without charge, the court document said.
In addition, the document said, O’Brien told police investigators he provided several head massages to the girl at his residence. He said those encounters were in “the living room in plain view of everybody.”