The country’s largest massage chain has largely ignored sexual assault reports, according to Buzzfeed News.
On Monday, a BuzzFeed News investigation reported that over 180 people had filed sexual assault lawsuits, police reports, and state board complaints against Massage Envy and its employees — many of which were largely ignored by the company.
Katie J.M. Baker, BuzzFeed reporter, talked to multiple women who had experienced instances of sexual assault. Allegations were made against massage therapists who had touched women’s genitals or breasts without consent, and even instances of ejaculating on customers.
The most concerning thing Baker uncovered is that, in many cases, Massage Envy employees often ignored customers’ reports of assault and even, in some instances, continued to employ the accused therapists. These allegations are disconcerting for many obvious reasons but particularly when considering that Massage Envy, founded in 2002, is by far the largest chain of massage franchises in the United States.
“Dozens of women reported digital and oral penetration,” Buzzfeed reported. “One Oregon woman said her massage therapist forced his entire fist into her vagina before ejaculating in her face. In Florida, a woman said she tried to push away her massage therapist as he licked her vagina. Over 100 reported that massage therapists groped their genitals, groped their breasts, or committed other explicit violations, such as the California woman who said she opened her eyes during a prenatal massage to find her massage therapist sucking on her nipple.”
One of the women Baker spoke to was Susan Ingram, a woman who was sexually assaulted by massage therapist James Deiter at the Massage Envy in West Chester, Pennsylvania. When Ingram talked to the manager and begged to get Deiter’s next client out of the massage room, she was told that the manager couldn’t do that. She called police, and Deiter was interviewed immediately, quickly admitting to assaulting Ingram and other clients. The next year, he pleaded guilty to sexually molesting nine women while working at Massage Envy from fall 2014 to spring 2015.
“We believe that even one incident is too many,” the company said USA TODAY. “We are constantly listening, learning and evaluating how we can continue to strengthen our policies with respect to handling of these issues.”
Ingram, however, considers Massage Envy to be very much at fault. “Massage Envy is a partner in crime,” Ingram said. “They had every opportunity, on multiple occasions, to remove him from his position, and they chose not to.”