A recent Buzzfeed News investigation found that over 180 women have reported sexual assault at Massage Envy, a wellness franchise with 1.65 million members and 1,170 locations across the United States, according to its website.
According to Buzzfeed, of the 180 women who filed sexual assault lawsuits, police reports, and state board complaints against the company, “over 100 reported that massage therapists groped their genitals, groped their breasts, or committed other explicit violations.” An account described by a woman named Susan Ingram details how James Deiter sexually assaulted her in 2015 on what was her seventh appointment with the Massage Envy masseur. The manager of the particular location she visited reportedly refused to interrupt the session Deiter was having with another female client when Ingram called to report the incident later that day. She also refused to connect Ingram with the spa’s owner.
“I was really in a state of shock, disbelief, fear,” Ingram said. “He lifted up my body, groped both of my breasts roughly and aggressively. Put his hands down to the lower part of my body.”
Court records show that two other women tried to warn the spa of Deiter’s predatory behavior beginning three months prior to Ingram’s assault. Deiter eventually pleaded guilty to sexually molesting a total of nine women while working at Massage Envy between fall 2014 and spring 2015.
Unfortunately, justice is not always served. Lawyers of women who have been sexually assaulted at the massage chain tell Buzzfeed that of the incidents reported, only few result in arrests. And in many cases of sexual assault, many victims don’t report at all.
Massage Envy declined to “respond point-by-point” to the news outlet’s questions, stating that “pending litigation” would make doing so inappropriate. But a spokesperson for the franchise claimed to Buzzfeed that the company is exercising the “most stringent, rigorous policies” when screening potential therapists.
“We hold franchise owners accountable to our policies,” Melanie Hansen, general counsel of Massage Envy Franchising, said in an email to Buzzfeed. “When we say nothing is more important to us than treating clients with respect and giving them a safe, professional experience, we mean it.”
Read more about the shocking investigation here.