The nation’s largest massage chain, Massage Envy, sporting over 1,200 locations nationwide, has become notorious from its numerous sexual assault allegations. While the story was only first publicized in September of this year, it has been occurring over the course of 15 years. Around 180 people have filed sexual assault lawsuits, police reports, and complaints against the company (CNN).
The company is currently facing accusations of mishandling and ignoring the various sexual assault allegations. Many victims are filing lawsuits against the company for negligent hiring, supervision, and retention. Despite Massage Envy claiming to have a “zero tolerance policy,” it has been discovered that some franchises have kept massage therapists on the payroll despite multiple misconduct allegations (USA TODAY). Other locations have quietly let go employees after violations, allowing massage therapists to continue their career and thus continue their assaults.
Victims have begun to share their stories, including Susan Ingram, who was assaulted in 2015. During her massage, her masseuse, James Dieter, began to touch her inappropriately. After calling the spa to complain, she was dissatisfied with their handling of the situation and decided to report the incident to the police. After he confessed to assaulting her, it was revealed that he had also assaulted nine other women, some of which had complained to the establishment (Fox News).
Ingram told BuzzFeed that “Massage Envy is a partner in crime. They had every opportunity, on multiple occasions, to remove him from his position, and they chose not to.” She stated her beliefs that if she had not filed a report with the police, he would still be working as a massage therapist.
The chain claims to handle the allegations by conducting a thorough investigation within the company and franchises are encouraged to support victims in their decision to report the incident. In response to the scandal, the company said in a statement to USA Today, “We believe that even one incident is too many. We are constantly listening, learning and evaluating how we can continue to strengthen our policies with respect to handling of these issues.”
The problem has become a national outrage with many people extremely critical of the ways in which Massage Envy has handled the allegations. Yorba Linda High School student Jayden Hawley states, “The real criminal is Massage Envy who have enabled these assaults to continue, at not only their own chain, but other massage spas.”
Many victims hope that by sharing their stories, they will shed light on the problem and also hold large corporations accountable for poor hiring practices and mishandling of repeated misconduct.