NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) — Massage Envy, the nation’s largest massage spa chain is facing allegations it ignored reports of sexual assault.
Susan Ingram says she was at a Pennsylvania location when the massage therapist began rubbing his groin against her. “He lifted up my body, groped both my breasts roughly and aggressively,” she said.
Ingram says she went home traumatized, then called the spa manager to report what happened. “She said in a very apparently scripted response, ‘We invite you in to talk about your services’ and I said ‘No, no, no, you don’t understand,” said Ingram.
Tara Woodley says, after she was abused at a Washington, D.C. location, her masseuse begged her to stay quiet. “He got on his knees and he begged and grabbed my left hand and pleaded with me to not tell anyone. He said he never did this before,” she said.
Woodley said she later discovered the innocence claim wasn’t true and that her masseuse had been transferred from a different location after assaulting a woman there. “This company seems to have a pattern and practice of not firing sexual predators,” said Woodley’s attorney, Kim Brooks-Rodney.
According to BuzzFeed News, more than 180 women “have filed sexual assault lawsuits, police reports, and state board complaints against Massage Envy spas, their employees, and the national company.”
Massage Envy said the cases span more than 15 years.
“Each of these incidents is heartbreaking for us and for the franchises that operate Massage Envy locations and we will never stop looking for ways to help our franchises provide a safe environment…” read a company statement.
“It’s really a challenge when you’re dealing with a company with so many locations that all have the same name,” said Phylissia Landix, of the Dallas Better Business Bureau.
Landix says customer experiences can vary greatly when a company franchises its business to different owners. She urges any victims of assault to report the crime, and not only to the company. “Start with the police department. Start with whatever agency licensed that type of business,” she said.
As of November 1, Texas has placed the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation in charge of overseeing massage therapy businesses, allowing it to take action against license holders for any sexual misconduct.
The Massage Envy franchise network has more than three dozen spas across North Texas and nearly 1,200 in the United States.