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Sexual assault victims share stories to show other women they're not alone

Four women told police they were sexually assaulted by a massage therapist in Boulder. He's behind bars now.

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — A former massage therapist in Boulder is now behind bars after clients accused him of sexual assault. He pleaded guilty to two felonies because four women decided to report him to police.

Matthew Mandel, 52, pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal attempt to commit assault and criminal attempt unlawful sexual contact in Boulder County. In May, a judge sentenced him to six years in prison.

Mandel was accused of sexually assaulting four victims in 2019 while he worked as a massage therapist at two different locations in Boulder County. Two of the four victims came forward after the original charges were filed in the case. 

Lauren Stovall and Deana Bianco are two of the four women who told police about their massages with Mandel. They want to share their stories so other women know they aren't alone.

"You just sit there and look at the clock and wait for it to be over cause you are afraid because nothing about it seems normal," said Stovall.

Stovall felt something was off during her massage in 2019 at the Colorado Athletic Club in Boulder. 

"I have never had an experience like this where these boundaries were constantly pushed," she said. "Even when I would say no he would push harder against those boundaries."

Stovall didn't truly understand what had happened to her until other women, including Bianco, reported Mandel to police. 

"You are, in a sense, taking back power," Bianco said. "You aren't just doing it for yourself but for sexual assault victims that might not want to come forward."

Bianco said she had an appointment with Mandel at Massage Specialists in Boulder in 2019.

"No one expects to sign up for a massage and be sexually assaulted violently in a room with a man," Bianco said. "And when that happens, it is indescribable and traumatic and it's scary."

A traumatic experience brought them together, and now they hope it encourages other women to speak up, too. 

"It's a support group, it's a lifetime membership of a club you never want to join," Bianco said. 

Mandel can no longer practice in the state of Colorado. Court records say two people filed complaints against his license as a massage therapist. 

Stovall has been to a massage appointment since her experience in 2019. The new place told her about a safety button underneath the table in case she ever felt uncomfortable. She said the front desk gets an alert when someone pushes it.

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