More than 180 people have allegedly been sexually assaulted by Massage Envy massage therapists and the franchise did little to assist the victims, a report published by BuzzFeed alleges. Massage Envy is the largest massage franchise in the United States. The report cited various lawsuits, police reports and other official documents, NBC News reports.
In one instance, a therapist in his 60s pleaded guilty to sexually molesting nine women while working at a Massage Envy in West Chester, Pennsylvania from 2014 to 2015. Victim Susan Weidman recalled being assaulted during court testimony in May: "What I didn't know during those terrifying moments was how far he was going to go until he was finished having his way with me. Never in my life have I ever felt more helpless and vulnerable as I did that day lying naked, face down on a table in the dark."
Susan Ingram told Buzzfeed that it wasn’t until her seventh session with Deiter that he assaulted her. Without warning, mid-massage, Deiter rubbed his erect penis against her body, groped her, and inserted his fingers in her vagina. When she called the Massage Envy location to report the incident the manager refused to interrupt the current session Deiter was having with a client or to connect Ingram with the owner.
“I said to her, ‘Nicole, he stuck his fingers in my vagina less than an hour ago,’” Ingram later testified in court. “She said she could not do that [interrupt Deiter’s massage session], and she invited me in to talk about my services,”
Turns out, two other women attempted to warn the spa about Deiter before Ingram, court records show.
And Deiter’s case is apparently not unique. Buzzfeed shed light on more alleged assaults at Massage Envy locations. In Florida, a woman claimed her massage therapist licked her genitals against her will. A California woman said she opened her eyes during a prenatal massage to find her masseuse with his mouth on her breast.
In a statement on Sunday, Massage Envy called the allegations "heartbreaking for us and for the franchisees that operate Massage Envy locations."
"Even one incident is too many," the statement said. "That's why we will never stop reinforcing to our franchisees the importance of a safe environment. It's why we are constantly listening, learning and looking at how we can do more, including how we support franchised locations with best practices in handling these incidents and supporting their clients."
Adam Horowitz, a lawyer who has worked on over twenty cases against Massage Envy, told NBC News that likely the number is higher than 180.
"Most women never report sexual misconduct," he said.
[Photo: Getty Images]