Nova Scotia

'Scared and shaking': Woman testifies at sexual assault trial of massage therapist

A woman testified Thursday in Shubenacadie provincial court she was shocked to realize her massage therapist had an erection during two appointments in 2015.

Martin Huybers has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of sexual assault involving 8 women

Martin Huybers in Shubenacadie provincial court on Nov. 14, 2019. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

A woman testified Thursday in Shubenacadie provincial court she was shocked to realize her massage therapist had an erection during two appointments in 2015.

The woman's name is protected by a publication ban. She was the second complainant to testify in Martin Huyber's trial for sexual assault. The 53-year-old has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts involving eight women.

Thursday's witness said she struggled with shoulder and hip pain and had been to Huybers about eight times at Strides Spa and Wellness Centre in Elmsdale, N.S.

"When I first started getting massages, I praised him. I had a lot of relief in my back, in my shoulders, so much so that I wanted to book my daughter in," she told the court.

She also testified she trusted Huybers and shared details about her personal life with him, including that her marriage was ending, her job was challenging and she was supporting a loved one who had serious health issues. She said she initially she felt comfortable with Huybers and assumed he was gay.

But her comfort level changed during a massage in May 2015 when she was on her stomach and felt something hard against her forearm, which was positioned in front of her head.

"I felt something rubbing up against my arm and at first it took me a second to realize what it was and I was thinking he had an erection," she said, adding that she looked up and confirmed that. 

When asked by Crown attorney Alicia Kennedy what she saw, the complainant responded: "Either an erection or Chris Brothers pepperoni in his pants, basically. It was a bulge."

She said the massage continued without further conversation and Huybers left the room, as he normally did.

"I got dressed, I was kinda shaking, I remember my heart beating through my chest," the woman said.

When she left the room, she said she told a woman at the spa's front counter.

 "I said to her, 'He got a hard-on, I think the massage therapist just rubbed his dick on me,'" she told the court, adding the woman responded she was "probably mistaken."

'I was scared and shaking'

Despite being angry and storming out, the witness said she replayed what happened over in her head and kept wondering if she was, in fact, mistaken. She decided to go back for a pre-booked session a few days later even though she remembered being "very nervous."

"I was mortified. I didn't know if what was happening was happening. Or if it did happen, or if it was in my head," she said. 

More than halfway through that second session, she testified she felt Huybers press himself against her again, first on her head and then her hand.

The woman started crying as she described how she felt that day.

She said she was "pissed. Upset. I was numb. I laid there. I literally was running through my head that I knew what I knew the first time, and I let it happen because I went into the second appointment...I was scared and shaking."

After making an excuse about needing to use the washroom, the session ended. She said she swore at the receptionist that she hadn't been mistaken on the way out.

The complainant testified she never talked to the spa owner, who was an acquaintance, because she was embarrassed about what had happened. She said she did discuss it with a few co-workers and family members. 

"It was almost easier to let it go… it was easier to joke about it in a way because I put myself in a situation," she said.

The woman eventually went to RCMP in the summer of 2018 after hearing on the news that Huybers had been charged. Initially, she "didn't want any part of that mess," but said her family encouraged her to report the allegations. 

2nd adjournment due to health records

Huybers, of Upper Nine Mile River, N.S., was accompanied by his wife and several friends in the courtroom.

The trial started last Thursday, but for the second time in as many days, the case was adjourned because defence lawyer Mark Knox brought up records that Huybers had pertaining to his massage therapy client's health history. Those records were not previously disclosed to the Crown.

Kennedy objected to Knox using them, citing 2017 amendments to the Criminal Code that relate to the admissibility of complainants' records in sexual assault cases.

There will be a hearing in February to assess the admissibility of the records. The first two complainants who testified may be called back to continue testifying when the trial resumes in April.

The trial dates are spread out and it's scheduled to run into June.


About the Author

Elizabeth McMillan is a journalist with CBC's Atlantic investigative unit. Over the past 11 years, she has reported from the edge of the Arctic Ocean to the Atlantic Coast and loves sharing people's stories. Please send tips and feedback to