News & Politics

Massage Envy Covered Up Sexual Assaults, Claims They're Not Responsible

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No doubt, you’ve seen the scores of news reports about how over 180 women have sued Massage Envy for sexual assault. Woven throughout the stories and revealed in the lawsuit and the company’s statements is that Massage Envy’s words of remorse are hollow; Massage Envy was fully aware of the problem and covered it up. Money is more important for Massage Envy than the safety of their customers. For all intents and purposes, Massage Envy encouraged the sexual assaults to continue, according to the victims.

Massage Envy is a national chain boasting almost 1,800 stores across 49 states. As a billion-dollar company, it has a vested interest in protecting their bottom line. Unfortunately, they did so at the peril of their customers.

BuzzFeed News first reported the story, relating the experience of Susan Ingram in chilling details:

Susan Ingram lay facedown in the dark at her local Massage Envy in West Chester, Pennsylvania, one of the franchise’s nearly 1,200 spas nationwide. It was her seventh session with James Deiter, a massage therapist whom the spa had enthusiastically recommended. By now, Ingram trusted Deiter, and she closed her eyes and relaxed as he worked her muscles. Then, without warning, Deiter ground his erect penis against Ingram’s body. He groped her breasts. He put his fingers in and out of her vagina.

When Ingram called Massage Envy, she was given the run-around. At that point, she called the police. When interviewed by the police later that day, Deiter  “quickly admitted to assaulting not just Ingram but other Massage Envy clients as well. ‘I need help,’ he confessed. The next year, Deiter pleaded guilty to sexually molesting a total of nine women while working at Massage Envy from fall 2014 to spring 2015.”

As disturbing as Susan Ingram and other customers’ experiences are, the level to which Massage Envy denies culpability is frightening.

Over the years, there has been a pattern of sexual assault at Massage Envy locations around the country, and it has earned a reputation for being unsafe (for the record, I am close to an individual who confided in me months ago that she did not want gift certificates to Massage Envy because of the pattern of sexual assault throughout the company). In their reporting, BuzzFeed News “found the company’s policies on reporting improper conduct do more to protect the company brand than to ensure customer complaints are handled appropriately.” The report went on to say, “Customers have been violated in shocking ways, then seen their reports brushed aside, while offending therapists have been allowed to keep their professional standing with no consequences.”

When asked in a deposition why she ignored Ingram’s complaint, the manager of the Massage Envy responded, “I was following the policy of Massage Envy, and therefore thought it was appropriate.”

Throughout this horrifying situation, Massage Envy continues to claim that it is not responsible for what goes on inside the massage rooms. The corporate office believes that the responsibility lies with the franchise owners. However, in a statement to NBC News, lawyer Adam Horowitz, who’s worked on multiple cases against Massage Envy, revealed, “In some cases, they suspend the therapist. Sometimes they end up at other franchises with a clean slate. In almost no instances does Massage Envy call the police when they get the report.”

NBC included the chilling statement from Horowitz that “the company’s policy manual doesn’t instruct employees to [call the police].”

Regardless of what happens in the courts, unless there is a massive restructuring of management and policies throughout Massage Envy, customers should steer clear of the company. In its attempts to shirk responsibility, Massage Envy has revealed itself as a company that can’t be trusted.