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Woman claims sexual assault at West MI spa, no charges filed

According to the YWCA of West Central Michigan, 3% of reported sexual assaults lead to conviction. Only between 25% and 40% are even reported.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A woman's trip to a West Michigan skincare store with spa services ended in what she says was a sexual assault. 

But no charges were brought against the owner. 

According to the YWCA of West Central Michigan, 3% of reported sexual assaults lead to conviction. Only between 25% and 40% are even reported.

She said:

When she was dealing with psoriasis, Joey Krzeminski booked facials at Premier by Dead Sea in Woodland Mall. 

"I had a bad feeling," said Krzeminski, "And I really just, I wish I would have trusted myself." 

She had two facial appointments with the owner. She says each one featured products placed on her face, and a foot and shoulder massage while the products set on her face. Each time, she and the owner would talk. She said he asked her a lot of personal questions, like her relationship status. 

On her third appointment, she said things changed. 

"I walked in, and he looked completely different than the other two appointments," said Krzeminski, "He was in gray sweatpants. He looked a mess." 

Krzeminski said he appeared maybe hungover or intoxicated, and started complaining about his girlfriend. She felt uneasy about this, and wanted to ask for a female facialist. However, she was uncomfortable to ask the receptionist because he was standing next to her.

During the facial and massage, she said the owner touched places he should not have been touching, like too far up her legs. 

"When they allowed the product to settle, they put a towel over your face. So, I couldn't see what was happening," said Krzeminski, "All I could hear for like a solid 10 minutes was just really heavy breathing. And I was really freaked out. I was like, okay, I don't know what he's doing and I don't want to know."

She said she tried convincing herself it was normal. Then, she said he asked her to remove her top so he can massage wrinkles out of her chest area. She lowered her towel and said he went straight to touching her breasts. 

"Just went straight there, " said Krzeminski, "And he was just like, 'How does it feel when I touch you?' And he got really close to my ear and I was like, 'What the f---?' Like, I just went 'What?' He's like, 'How does it feel when I touch you?' and I was, I didn't say anything. I was just, I was really shocked and I was really scared. I didn't know what to do."

She said after she seemed upset, he gave her a quick back massage and started to leave. 

"He goes, 'Wow, we really went far today. I'm surprised at you,'" said Krzeminski, "Like it was something I did." 

She said he noticed she was in shock, and he said, "What? It's not like I stuck my fingers in your p---- or anything." 

Joey said she wished she ran out screaming, but she was frozen. 

"Before it happened to me," said Krzeminski, "I was like, well, if somebody did that to me, I'd just knocked their hand off me. I'd just tell them to go away. I would get up and walk out. You don't know what you're going to do in that situation. You have no idea until it happens."

She told the receptionist she did not want to book another appointment. Krzeminski said the receptionist pushed her to make another, so she did. She cancelled it as soon as she left. 

The next morning she filed a police report. 

He said:

The Kentwood Police Department interviewed the owner of Premier by Dead Sea a few days after Krzeminski's report. 

According to the police report, two detectives asked where on the body he massages a client. He said everywhere on the body, however, "they do not massage anywhere where the customer does not consent."

He told police he asked Krzeminski if there were any areas she did not want him to massage, she said there was not. 

A detective asked him if a body massage includes "private areas," and he said he only "does the upper chest area." 

The police report shows the owner did not deny he massaged Krzeminski's breasts, but said it was not done in a sexual or assaulting way. He said she pulled the wrap down herself. 

In the report, the owner said it is rare for him to give breast massages. The detective asked why he would ask Krzeminski if he could massage her breasts when he doesn't ask all his other clients this as well. The report explains he did not have an answer.

The report ends the interview explaining the owner said he would like her to know nothing he did was sexual to him, and he is sorry if she felt violated. He never meant to make her feel uncomfortable. 

What happens next:

The owner told police he has cameras in the lobby area of the store, pointed at the front desk. The footage of the day Krzeminski had her third appointment ended recording at 11 a.m. Her appointment was scheduled for 4 p.m. 

The case was handed over to the Kent County Prosecutor's Office. After reviewing, it was decided there was not enough evidence to charge the owner with criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree. 

In a statement, Prosecutor Chris Becker said:

"We simply can’t prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt... One person says one thing happens, another person says something different, and there is no other evidence to make a determination of what occurred. Unfortunately we have this occur quite a bit in CSC cases, it’s extremely hard for the complainant to understand, there just isn’t enough evidence to prove the charge."

The attorney for the owner of Premier by Dead Sea said: "What I can say is that charges were declined. I feel that speaks for itself."

"I feel like legally, his word has been more effective than mine," said Krzeminski, "It's really frustrating. It's disgusting."

A representative for Woodland Mall said: "We were recently made aware of allegations involving a tenant and have cooperated fully with law enforcement. Our expectation is that tenants and their employees exercise ethical and lawful behavior."

Not alone: 

According to the YWCA of Western Central Michigan, about 5% of reported sexual assault cases lead to arrest. Only 3% end in conviction. 

And that is only of those that are reported. Only between 25% and 40% of sexual assaults are even reported. 

"The number of people who are arrested and convicted of charges of sexual assault when reported is actually very low," said Charisse Mitchell, the CEO of YWCA of Western Central Michigan. 

Mitchell said she can't speak for the prosecutor, but often, evidence is important. Prosecutors need to go by the likelihood of conviction when considering charges. 

Still, she said telling someone about the assault, like the YWCA, or reporting it to police is still important even if it does not lead to a conviction. That is because often, perpetrators are not one time offenders. 

"We couldn't prove the case the first time," said Mitchell, "But when it happened a second time, we now have a pattern of behavior."

She said this is especially true with physical evidence, like if a survivor underwent a rape kit examination. 

"One person could be ignored," said Mitchell. "Seven? Not so much."

Mitchell said justice often means different things for different people. For some, it could be just telling someone and being believed. Others need support and resources like what the YWCA can give. Some need to see the perpetrator held responsible, whether it be legal charges, job termination or ruined reputation. 

"Even if there's a conviction, your healing process, your survival, your thriving is in your hands," said Mitchell. "You have the ability to find your own space and hope. And we want to be a part of that. But we don't want people to believe that the end all be all is the end of a case. Because your journey continues. You're still here, you still matter and we still care."

While justice is important, Mitchell said the conversations need to begin to change at a community level to prevent sexual assault from happening in the first place. 

"If our only question is what you what were you wearing?" said Mitchell, "Why did you go to that party? Why were you drinking? Then, we are missing the mark. We are not holding our systems, our communities, responsible for behaviors. And how do we create those those safe spaces."

Meanwhile, Krzeminski said she is glad she reported her experience, even if it did not lead to charges. She said she will continue to speak out about what happened to her. 

"I just want people to know, or women to know who have gone through this, it's incredibly frustrating," said Krzeminski, "But there's so many of us out there who are just trying to change this."

If you or someone you know is being abused or has been assaulted, call the YWCA's 24-hour helpline. That number is (616)454-9922. They can help with safety planning, safe places to stay, legal help, sexual assault exams and other support. 

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