A well-known national massage chain is now the latest public entity facing accusations of sexual assault.
More than 180 female customers of Massage Envy have accused male massage therapists of groping and penetrating them while on the massage table, BuzzFeed reported, citing lawsuits, police reports, and other complaints.
The company has 14 locations in Connecticut.
Several of the female accusers have issued complaints to management of Massage Envy - which operates more than 1,200 spas across the country - about the alleged assault that they have experienced. The company does not require its franchises to inform police when accusations of sexual misconduct are made against the company, according to the report.
One alleged incident involves customer Susan Ingram, of West Chester, Penn., who said she was sexually assaulted in May 2015 by massage therapist James Deiter. After leaving the spa, she called the Massage Envy location where it occurred to inform them of what had happened. The manager, Nicole, who answered the phone allegedly chose to not intervene in Deiter’s ongoing massage of another client after taking the complaint.
Ingram called police and Deiter didn't deny the accusations, eventually pleading guilty to molesting nine women.
“We hold franchise owners accountable to our policies and, when we say nothing is more important to us than treating clients with respect and giving them a safe, professional experience, we mean it,” Massage Envy told BuzzFeed in a statement.
To valued members and guests,
I, like so many of you, continue to be sickened and so disheartened by the stories that have recently been published about sexual misconduct at Massage Envy franchise locations. We have zero tolerance for this type of behavior and to those who suffered, I am deeply sorry.
The safety of members and guests has always been and will always be paramount. And, we are always looking for ways to do more.
Our initial reaction after reading the media reports was to respond immediately. But, we felt it was important to first talk directly to victims and victim rights groups, industry associations, and sexual violence experts to help define our plan. Early next week, we’ll share the details of a comprehensive and transparent path forward. To make meaningful change in this industry, we have to do it thoughtfully and we cannot do it alone. Thankfully, there are many others that feel like we do and are anxious to help.
In the meantime, we are not standing still.
- Each location was required to review, recommunicate and, in no uncertain terms, recommit to our safety and reporting policies.
- We have just completed an additional review of all massage therapist files to ensure they have a completed background check and professional reference checks as well as to ensure their licensure/certification is current and annual training requirements have been met.
- Our accredited third-party background screening company has begun rescreening each and every one of the 20,000 licensed massage therapists within the Massage Envy network.
Let me be clear: this is just the start and these first steps are not the complete answer. We are taking a hard look at ourselves and at the additional changes we must make. Next week, we will announce those changes and begin to put them into action.
We will never stop working to earn your trust.