Leah Vernon, an inclusive content creator, writer and plus-sized Hijabi model, shared her harrowing story of sexual assault while in Turkey.

In a video uploaded to Instagram on December 8, Vernon included photos of where the assault took place, and Cuneyt Tunc, the masseur allegedly responsible for the act.

“What he did to me, what he took from me is inexcusable,” Vernon said. “It caused my life to be turned inside out. I’ve had to come out of pocket, and spent well over $3000 to hire an international lawyer.”

To make things worse, she was strongly discouraged from pursuing legal action while in Turkey. These kinds of fear tactics are often employed against victims of sex crimes, especially women.

“The male managers threatened me and told me that I would be held in the country if I made a report,” Vernon wrote in her Instagram caption. “They kept trying to convince me to not go to the police. For over an hour after the assault, they wouldn’t notify the authorities.”

What’s worse, Vernon suspects the masseur is still employed at the spa.

In the video, she thanked her followers for giving her the strength to come forward, and appealed to them for help in pursuit of justice.

Where Is The Spa?

What was meant to be a restorative trip to Turkey, took a dark turn in August.

The Catma Mescit Spa is part of the Nova Pera Plaz Hotel in Istanbul. In her research, Vernon discovered that the spa had five-star reviews, so she made an appointment.

“I’m a self-care queen, and every country I’ve ever visited, I always get a massage,” she wrote in an essay shared with Travel Noire. “To my surprise, Istanbul was highly rated for being affordable and Black folk friendly.”



Vernon Got Into Greater Detail In An Essay

“I wore high-waisted jeans, a shirt, a turban, and some funky glasses—the ones that flip up like on Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”

“The taxi driver dropped me off in front of the hotel. I pushed into the lobby by way of the revolving door. Off to the side were two huge wooden double doors. They were heavy and medieval looking.”

After filling out forms, Vernon asked whether the male or female staff gave the best massages. When told she couldn’t go wrong either way, she chose a masseur, a male massage therapist.

“I hadn’t known that by marking that box, my fate would be sealed,” she wrote.

The essay got progressively darker and more explicit. Even as Vernon’s body instinctively tensed while she was on the massage table, and she asked him to focus on her back and shoulders, Tunc urged her to relax and allegedly touched her in inappropriate places.

Tunc didn’t offer to cover her with a sheet as most massage therapists would. When Vernon firmly insisted on a towel at least, he agreed, but seemed disappointed.

When the service concluded, Vernon alerted a front desk worker and the manager.

“This is going to sound crazy,” she started. “But does the Turkish massage include going into the butt and groin area?”

“No,” came the manager’s reply. “They stop near where the thigh and groin area meet.”


Vernon Was Outraged By Lack Of Media Interest

“I was there for a massage and a massage only,” Vernon wrote. “Happy endings, sexual assault, victimhood, toxic male masculinity or theft hadn’t even crossed my mind.”

She added: “the realization that I had become yet another sexual assault statistic vaulted at me like a deer trying to outrun a semi-truck on a darkened highway.”

Vernon attributed the lack of media interest to her being “a fat, Black Muslim” woman.

At the time the video was posted on Instagram, the hotel and the spa hadn’t issued an apology or any kind of statement.

“Believe Black women,” Vernon said on Instagram. “I will not stop, we will not stop, until we get justice.”