Massage Envy Has a Sexual Assault Problem

At least 180 claims of sexual assault and misconduct have been filed against Massage Envy, the largest day spa franchise in the country.

A Buzzfeed exposé portrays a largely indifferent corporate culture at Massage Envy for failing to address the problem, which is why Care2 has jumped in with a petition.

Sign now: Massage Envy Must Take Responsibility For Sexual Assault At Their Chains

The Buzzfeed article gets into detail on a few disturbing stories about women that went to Massage Envy for some relaxation and were paired with massage therapists who, without warning or invitation, digitally penetrated their vaginas, licked their vaginas, groped their breasts and/or sucked on their nipples.

Nearly as disturbing as the assaults themselves are how the spas respond to the customers reporting these assaults. Some spa owners and managers did not contact the customer back, some discouraged police intervention and others simply tried to offer a refund or coupons to make amends. In many cases, the accused massage therapists maintain their jobs or are merely transferred.

To be fair, many of the women making the complaints thought the spas mishandled the situation out of ignorance and incompetence rather than maliciousness, but that’s not something that should be happening in this day in age, particularly at a franchise with over 1,000 locations. Whereas independent businesses might not have ever dealt with these issues before, being part of a larger corporate umbrella, Massage Envy should have some clearly defined policies in place.

Alas, those policies according to Buzzfeed “do more to protect the company brand than to ensure customer complaints are handled appropriately.” Massage Envy’s training program walks employees through handling inappropriate conduct complaints in order to “avoid negative attention” and to pay attention to the guest’s “demeanor or any other behavior that may go towards credibility.”

The training includes three test scenarios, but of none of those examples include actual sexual assault, which may give employers the impression that all complaints can be downplayed and resolved without help from the authorities.

Because it’s the franchise owners, not Massage Envy corporate, that get sued for instances of sexual assault, the headquarters might not have the proper incentive to address this problem from the top. That said, an anonymous corporate employee told Buzzfeed that the top brass were aware of the frequency of assault and worried that the press might compile the incidents to show a widespread problem.

Let’s not forget how ripe the spa industry is for these types of crimes. Massage therapists are tasked with touching nearly naked clients. “An inordinate amount of people are attracted to massage therapy because of sexual interest,” said Adam Horowitz, an attorney who has represented multiple clients suing day spas. “Just like there was opportunity in the priesthood, there’s opportunity in the massage room. When you get a massage, your guard is down completely. You’re not expecting to be violated.”

That being said, massage therapists themselves also face sexual assault more often than folks in many other professions. Just as Massage Envy should not ignore claims against their therapists, they also must not ignore claims against their clients.

With that in mind, Massage Envy and fellow spas need a more clearly defined protocol about what’s appropriate and what’s not – and what to do if those lines are crossed – to protect both clients and therapists.

It’s not just Buzzfeed that’s reporting on the sexual assault crisis at Massage Envy; a simple internet search for Massage Envy turns up a lot of upsetting news headlines:

The negative attention seems to be working. After years of allegations, the Massage Envy CEO finally wrote a public letter promising to reflect on the situation, review its policies and soon provide a list of actions it will take to remedy the sexual assault problem.

Changes are incredibly welcome, but until we see that detailed plan, let’s keep applying pressure and make sure Massage Envy follows through. Add your name to the petition to let them know how seriously you take the issue of sexual assault.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

73 comments

Marie W
Marie W1 months ago

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Jack Y
Jack Y3 months ago

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Jack Y
Jack Y3 months ago

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John J
John J3 months ago

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John J
John J3 months ago

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R3 months ago

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R3 months ago

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R3 months ago

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R3 months ago

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R3 months ago

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