More Than 180 Women Have Accused This Popular Massage Franchise of Sexual Assault
By Danielle Fontana , Assistant Editor |
**UPDATED December 1, 2017**
Massage Envy's CEO, Joseph C. Magnacca, has responded to the multiple sexual assault allegations filed against Massage Envy spas around the country five days after the news broke of the accusations.
In an open letter on the Massage Envy site, Magnacca first apologizes to the individuals, then explains the steps the company has taken to rectify the situation, as well as the steps they plan to take moving forward. The statement can be read in full below.
To Valued Massage Envy Members and Guests,
I, like so many of you, continue to be sickened and so disheartened by the stories that have recently been published about sexual misconduct at Massage Envy franchise locations. We have zero tolerance for this type of behavior and to those who suffered, I am deeply sorry.
The safety of members and guests has always been and will always be paramount. And, we are always looking for ways to do more.
Our initial reaction after reading the media reports was to respond immediately. But, we felt it was important to first talk directly to victims and victim rights groups, industry associations, and sexual violence experts to help define our plan. Early next week, we’ll share the details of a comprehensive and transparent path forward. To make meaningful change in this industry, we have to do it thoughtfully and we cannot do it alone. Thankfully, there are many others that feel like we do and are anxious to help.
In the meantime, we are not standing still.
- Each location was required to review, recommunicate and, in no uncertain terms, recommit to our safety and reporting policies.
- We have just completed an additional review of all massage therapist files to ensure they have a completed background check and professional reference checks as well as to ensure their licensure/certification is current and annual training requirements have been met.
- Our accredited third-party background screening company has begun rescreening each and every one of the 20,000 licensed massage therapists within the Massage Envy network.
Let me be clear: this is just the start and these first steps are not the complete answer. We are taking a hard look at ourselves and at the additional changes we must make. Next week, we will announce those changes and begin to put them into action.
We will never stop working to earn your trust.
Joseph C. Magnacca
CEO Massage Envy Franchising, LLC
**Originally published November 26, 2017**
Massage Envy, a the US's biggest massage-therapy franchise with over 1,200 locations nationwide, has been accused of sexual assault by more than 180 women. As BuzzFeed reports, female customers have accused massage therapists of groping and penetrating them during their massages, but because Massage Envy management does not require its franchises to notify law enforcement when a sexual assault allegation has been made, these women have been blockaded when attempting to file reports.
As one former manager explained to BuzzFeed, “[The internal review policy is] in place to protect the company. It’s centered around defusing the situation so the client doesn’t call the police. You don’t want cop cars showing up at your location the next day.” However, some women didn’t stop once they were stonewalled at the front desk—they kept fighting.
The Buzzfeed report highlights the story of a Pennsylvania-based customer, Susan Ingram, who said she was sexually assaulted in May 2015 by a massage therapist named James Deiter. An hour after her assault, Ingram called the Massage Envy location where it occurred. The manager of the franchise, Nicole, answered the phone and declined to interrupt Deiter’s ongoing massage of a different client. “I begged her to stop the massage and get him away from the woman,” Ingram said in court documents. “She said she could not do that, and she invited me in to talk about my services...I said to her, ‘Nicole,’ he stuck his fingers in my vagina less than an hour ago.’”
Once Ingram called the cops on her own, Deiter fessed up and eventually pled guilty to molesting nine women. When arrested, he reportedly confessed that he “needed help.” Deiter was sentenced to prison for 6.5 to 13 years.
According to court documents, Ingram was not the first to be assaulted by Deiter—however, when two previous clients also tried reporting their experiences, the spa ignored their allegations, saying they weren't credible because the women refused to return to the spa to discuss their experiences.
“I was following the policy of Massage Envy,” the owner later said to a judge. “and therefore I thought it was appropriate.”
Massage Envy said in a statement: “We hold franchise owners accountable to our policies and, when we say nothing is more important to us than treating clients with respect and giving them a safe, professional experience, we mean it."Stay tuned to NewBeauty for any updates.