Women say therapist groped them during treatment

Donald Nichols fired last year after he was charged with sexual battery

By Scott Johnson - Reporter

FOLKSTON, Ga. - Police in southeast Georgia are looking for more possible victims after several women accused a former therapy assistant at a Folkston, Georgia, rehabilitation facility of groping them under the pretense of treatment.

Donald Nichols, 52, was fired from his position at Advance Rehabilitation after he was charged with misdemeanor sexual battery.

At least four women have come forward so far, saying Nichols sexually battered them by grabbing their private parts during treatment -- sometimes while other patients were in the room.

Folkston police began investigating the case in October, when a Folkston woman claimed Nichols was giving her a massage for a problem with her neck and casually grabbed her beneath her shirt with other people in the room.

“During the massage part, Mr. Nichols sexually assaulted me by going down into my bra. I grabbed his hand and said, 'I don’t think that’s part of my therapy,'” said the woman, who asked not to be identified. “He was too casual about it. When I grabbed his hand, he said he was sorry. He had no right to be there in that part of my body.”

The woman said other patients followed her lead after she came forward to report the allegations. Two new cases were added in the past week.

The woman said she was date raped years ago and didn't report it, so she couldn't leave things unsaid this time.

“I told myself, at the time, never ever let a man touch me that I didn’t want to,” she said. “I’m a retired nurse, and I knew what he was doing.”

A manager at the rehab center said Nichols' co-workers were “absolutely surprised,” and that the center's priority is “keeping our patients safe,” which is why Nichols was fired.

The facility's corporate office released a statement Wednesday:

The Advance Rehab – Folkston clinic terminated Mr. Nichols from his employment in October 2016. We understand there is an ongoing police investigation, and we are cooperating with the local police department. We have no further comment on this matter while the investigation is ongoing. ”

News4Jax attempted to track Nichols down for comment. His listed address in Camden County is down miles of dirt road, which were blocked off Wednesday, so news crews couldn’t get too close.

News4Jax also tried to contact Nichols' Kingsland-based attorney to hear his side of the allegations, but have not received a response.

Nichols still has an active physical therapy license in Georgia with no complaints listed on it.

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