With almost 1,200 locations, Massage Envy has long been the largest franchise of its kind since the company was founded in 2002. On Sunday, BuzzFeed News reported on over 180 filed complaints, police reports, and sexual assault lawsuits against the spa empire—and called the franchise out for failing to take action.
Among the incidents reported was Danielle Dick’s story. Dick wrote on Change.org that she was assaulted at Massage Envy’s Richmond, VA location and, after reporting her abuse to the manager on duty, was told that Massage Envy would “handle it internally.” She also said that she never heard from anyone at the corporation again, even after the employee’s admission and subsequent conviction of sexual assault.
“They have no practices in place to support individuals who are victimized in their stores,” Dick shared. “The way that Massage Envy has treated me clearly indicates a company that issues statements saying the right things to protect its corporate brand, but is unwilling to do anything to support victims of assault.”
Tara Woodley of Washington, DC told BuzzFeed News a similar story. After news reporter Katie Baker looked into Woodley’s experience, she found that two other women had previously reported inappropriate conduct at the hands of the same massage therapist. After the first report, the therapist was transferred to Massage Envy’s DC location.
In fact, many of these predators were reported several times before any kind of action was taken. “In some cases, they suspend the therapist. Sometimes, they end up at other franchises with a clean slate,” Adam Horowitz, who has worked as a lawyer on multiple cases against Massage Envy, told NBC News. “In almost no instances does Massage Envy call the police when they get the report.”
Susan Ingram asked to speak with a Massage Envy manager in West Chester, Pennsylvania after massage therapist James Deiter, who has since been arrested, allegedly violated her during a massage appointment. After the management refused to do anything, Ingram went to the police; the police questioned Deiter, and he immediately confessed to assaulting Ingram and nine other women during his several months working at the spa. Court records show that two of these instances had been previously reported, but West Chester management had concluded the reports were not credible because “both women had made them over the phone and wouldn’t return to the spa to discuss the events in person,” reported BuzzFeed News.
This logic exemplifies the long-practiced history of pushing survivors to jump through ridiculous hoops and relive their traumas in order for their cases to be taken seriously. In court, when asked why a client’s credibility would depend on her comfort returning to the scene of the crime, the spa owner just said, “I was following the policy of Massage Envy,” according to BuzzFeed News.
“They had every opportunity, on multiple occasions, to remove him from his position,” Ingram said of Deiter. “They chose not to.”
Top photo via Flickr / Nick Webb
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Lydia Wang is a writer, a Pisces, and one of BUST's digital editors. Find her on Twitter or say hi: firstname.lastname@example.org.