Across the nation, people seek out businesses like Massage Envy in an effort to relax and reduce their pain, tension, or stress. The well known national massage chain offers an affordable means to do that….except more than 180 women are now accusing the chain of sexually assaulting them instead. Rather than addressing this issue the billion dollar company claims these accusations and issues are not their problems to solve.
According to an investigative report from BuzzFeed more than 180 female customers of Massage Envy have accused male massage therapists of groping or penetrating them while on the massage table. The report cites lawsuits, police reports, and state board complaints against Massage Envy spas, their employees, and the national company.
Many of the female victims have attempted to bring their complaints directly to the management of Massage Envy about their nightmarish experiences. Yet the company that operates more than 1,200 spas across the country does not require its franchises to inform or in anyway involve local law enforcement when accusations of sexual misconduct are made against employees or the company.
Virginia mother Danielle Dick is speaking out about how the company turned what used to be her escape into a nightmare. A professor at a local university and a mother of a very active 10-year-old, Dick says the massages were her escape and opportunity to recharge from a constantly on the go schedule, yet on Sunday her whole perspective changed. Dick recounts how she felt violated, afraid, and confused after she was sexually assaulted by a therapist at a Henrico Massage Envy in fall of 2015.
“For a long time, I changed the way I went to the grocery store and I changed all my errands so that I wouldn’t have to drive by it, but it is virtually impossible not to drive by a Massage Envy, they are all over the place. It would make me sick to my stomach every time I passed a store or saw an advertisement. I was actually feeling a little under the weather that day, and was going to cancel my massage but thought no it’ll be relaxing.”
What happened next while she was lying on the massage table, had her frozen in shock…
Recounting the moment when things began to go dreadfully wrong, she says at the time she felt violated but also afraid and confused, wondering if this was really happening like she thought it was. Then the masseur put all doubt to rest.
“At first you think, well that was a little odd, did his hand just slip? It takes a while for your brain to catch up and realize, oh no, this is what is going on. At the very end of the assault, he leaned over and said, ‘Our little secret, okay?’ And that was the point at which I knew, I’m going to report this, I have to report this.”
Dick then recounts what occurred after she reported the assault to the company, recalling she had been told –
“‘We understand that you were unhappy with your massage experience, so we won’t charge you for the massage, and if you’d like to cancel your membership, we won’t charge you a penalty fee.’”
She was also told the manager refused to call the police, telling her the incident would be handled internally. Nearly two years later after Dick reported her assault to police herself and endured an 11-month legal battle, the masseur – Daeshawn Bullard – was convicted of sexual battery and forcible object, sexual penetration. Bullard is now serving a 5-year sentence.
Dick has used her experience as a call to action by both blogging about her assault and by starting a petition in hopes it will force Massage Envy to put policies into place to protect their clients rather than further victimize them while protecting their attackers.
Susan Ingram, of West Chester, PA had a similar experience. Ingram was sexually assaulted in May of 2015 by James Deiter. After leaving the spa, she called management of the Massage Envy location where the assault occurred to inform them of what happened. They refused to do anything so Ingram called the police. Deiter did not deny the accusations and confessed to molesting nine other women besides Ingram.
Ingram called the police and Deiter did not deny the accusations, eventually pleading guilty to molesting nine women. Yet according to court filings in multiple cases as well as in public statements made by Massage Envy’s corporate office the company maintains it is not liable for sexual assaults that happen at franchise locations.
In response to the BuzzFeed investigative report, Massage Envy’s corporate office released the following statement:
“Each of these incidents is heartbreaking for us and for the franchisees that operate Massage Envy locations, and we will never stop looking for ways to help our franchisees provide a safe environment at Massage Envy franchise locations. The article references 180 reported incidents. These occurred over a span of 15 plus years and 125 million massages. But, we believe that even ONE incident is too many, so we are constantly listening, learning, and evaluating how we can continue to strengthen our policies with respect to handling of these issues.”