Massage Envy Allegations: 180-Plus Spa-Goers Claim Harassment, BuzzFeed Says

Posted November 28, 2017

"It's very alarming, very alarming, people are very vulnerable when they go in for a massage", said Leslie Lombino of Somerville, Massachusetts.

As Buzzfeed first reported, more than 180 sexual assaults have been reported against the chain.

The alleged assaults by Massage Envy employees reportedly occurred at locations across the country - the billion-dollar business owns just under 1,200 franchises in the US, with 40 locations in the Bay Area - and the reports range from digital and oral penetration to the groping of breasts and genitals.

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In court filings and in public statements viewed by BuzzFeed, Massage Envy said it was not liable for incidents of sexual assault taking place at the spas. At the time of those final court proceedings, Massage Envy stated that they were "appalled that he violated the Massage Envy code and conduct and zero tolerance policy".

The investigative report from Buzzfeed News highlights how the nation's largest massage spa chain trains the massage therapists and how the company is handling the disturbing allegations.

"Massage Envy is a partner in crime", Ingram told Buzzfeed.

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Hundreds have come forward and filed sexual assault lawsuits, police reports, and state board complaints against Massage Envy spas, its employees, and the company itself, including Susan Ingram of Pennsylvania, who cited that her once-trusted therapist James Deiter "ground his erect penis against Ingram's body, groped her breasts, and put his fingers in and out of her vagina" during one of her sessions in 2015. Others say managers dismissed the claims, offered them refunds or told them not to file police reports.

Franchise owners are given little guidance in this regard, BuzzFeed claims, with the exception of a training video called "Behind Closed Doors", which advises therapists to address their guest's concerns "in a safe and secure environment in order to retain them as a valued client and avoid negative attention".

Over the past 15 years, Massage Envy has given over 125 million massages, gaining a reputation as one of the most well-known massage parlors around. The article references 180 reported incidents.

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Adam Horowitz, A lawyer who has worked on two dozen cases against Massage Envy says the actual number of assaults is likely much higher than what has been reported. We reached out to the franchise where Ingram said she was assaulted, but they declined to comment.