Massages are meant to be a relaxing way to release tension and stress from the body. And for many, the service of a skilled massage therapist can be a blessing. But what happens when a massage turns into something else—something uninvited?
This is the case for popular massage franchise Massage Envy, who is at the root of over 180 sexual assault claims by female clients. The billion-dollar spa chain also faces allegations that massage assault claims were mishandled and in some cases even ignored.
Massage Envy spas adopt a business model similar to that of a fast food chain, providing timely, affordable service for paying customers by staffing massage therapists and managers by the numbers. With this quick pace of business, Massage Envy appears to have sacrificed hiring standards to meet demands. The result is a combination of newly graduated massage therapists often working under inexperienced managers, an atmosphere that has proven unsafe for many vulnerable clients.
Sweeping Claims Of Assault Under The Rug
To worsen matters, not every state requires Massage Envy franchises to notify police of allegations and the store will only conduct an internal investigation. Although Massage Envy claims to have a zero-tolerance policy for sexual assault and notates accused employees within internal databases, suspecting sexual predators can easily transfer to another spa with a clean record. Because of this, victims have filed their own police reports after complaints to management were swept under the rug.
Such an incident occurred to one victim on May 2, 2015, at a Massage Envy in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Susan Ingram was having her seventh session with her massage therapist, James Deiter, when he groped her breasts, put his fingers in her vagina and touched her with his erect penis. Susan froze, unsure of what to do until the session was over. She panicked and drove home in tears, phoning the spa to report the incident. Ingram begged the manager to stop Deiter, who was in session, but the manager reportedly refused to interrupt or confront Deiter about her claims.
Ingram begged the manager to stop Deiter, who was in session, but the manager reportedly refused to interrupt or confront Deiter about her claims.
Ingram decided to take matters into her own hands and called the police. During his interrogation, Deiter admitted to Susan’s sexual assault, as well to molesting a total of nine women during his employment from fall 2014 to spring 2015. Court records show that two of these victims attempted to warn the spa about Deiter’s behavior before Ingram was assaulted, though the spa decided the claims were unsubstantiated since the women complained over the phone instead of returning to the spa to do so in person.
Is Massage Envy Liable?
Court filings and public statements show that Massage Envy claims the corporation is not liable for sexual assaults that take place on the premises due to their franchise agreements. However, attorneys argue that even though spas are independently owned, the parent company is responsible for operational standards, training employees in policies and monitoring investigations.
In an attempt to squelch the claims, Massage Envy drew a comparison between the number of massages given over the past 15 years and the number of sexual assault claims, asserting that the percentage of claims is small. As appalling as this is, victims and their lawyers are standing firm that one incident of sexual assault is one too many and these women deserve justice.
After her traumatic experience, Ingram assisted in helping U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan of Pennsylvania introduce federal legislation that would require owners and employees of massage spas to report claims of sexual assault to the police. If the legislation passes, it will impose increased accountability for spa conglomerates like Massage Envy who turn a blind eye to a serious problem.
If you or a loved one has been violated at the hands of a massage therapist, you are not alone. You did not choose to be a victim, but you can chose to be a survivor. Jessica Pride is currently representing clients who have experienced trauma by the negligence of Massage Envy. Your pain, suffering and anguish should not go unaccounted for and Jessica is already well-versed in sexual assault litigation concerning massage therapists.
Jessica Pride has spent years handling cases just like yours and can help you take the necessary steps to rebuild your life after a sexual assault. She has been the trusted legal and personal counsel for many women and understands how painful this process can be. With our caring staff at your side, you are never alone. Call the offices of Jessica Pride today at 619-995-6829 for a risk-free, no-obligation consultation.