Dirty Dozen List 2020 - Massage Envy

The Problem

Massage Envy, the largest massage chain in America, with more than 20,000 therapists and 1,200 locations, has been and is being, sued by hundreds of women for failing to take appropriate measures when a massage therapist sexually harasses or assaults a client.

Among a number of poor policies, the company has hidden clauses in customer agreements that force women to surrender their rights and many former employees report being trained to do all in their power not to encourage police to show up at their locations.  Massage Envy does not even require reporting of suspected assaults to the Massage Therapy Board and a number of cases against Massage Envy involve prior complaints of sexual assault by customers being made to management and them doing nothing about it, thus allowing perpetrators to continue preying on vulnerable clients.

Massage Envy claims that it “will never stop working to have industry-leading safety policies.” But so far it has refused to address these seismic policy failures.

Currently, Massage Envy forces its customers to wave any right to bring forward claims against the company, even in cases of unlawful conduct.

[Found October 31, 2019] At No Time Shall You Have A Right To, Nor Shall You, Assert Or Bring Any Claim, Demand, Or Legal Action Against Mef Or Any Of Its Affiliates ... Neither Mef Nor Any Of Its Affiliates Shall Have Any Liability For (I) ... (Iii) Any Claim Based Upon Any Alleged Unlawful Act Or Omission By The Franchisee Or Any Independently Owned And Operated Massage Envy® Location.

We believe this required waiver of rights imposed on clients is egregious and must be reversed.

By comparison, Somatic Massage company includes an allowance for bringing forward claims due to “gross negligence or willful misconduct” of “its owner or employees/contractors.”

When people are placing their bodies in the hands of a doctor, a dentist, or a masseuse, they’re putting trust in them. The nature of a massage, where individuals are more vulnerable and trusting than usual – nearly undressed, alone, and expecting relaxation – contributes to immense trauma when that trust is broken by sexual harm.

We recognize that Massage Envy has begun working to make improvements, but we are calling on Massage Envy to take its policies a step beyond mere damage control, and a step into actual corporate responsibility regarding sexual exploitation.

We are asking Massage Envy to commit to:

  1. Placing signs in each Massage Envy informing customers of their right to stop a massage at any point they feel uncomfortable, and their right to make a police report if they feel a masseuse has committed sexual misconduct or sexually harassed or assaulted them,
  2. Publicly committing, and instituting strict internal policies, to report any case of customer discomfort with a masseuse regarding sexual misconduct, harassment, or assault, to the Massage Therapy Board,
  3. Create an annual public transparency report in tandem with multiple advocacy organizations, similar to the one being created by Uber, which acknowledges the scope of the problem of sexual misconduct, harassment, and assault in each Massage Envy—and make this report available on the Massage Envy app, and in emails to new clients,
  4. Publicly committing to stop forcing customers to waive their right to bring forward claims against Massage Envy, even when those claims are alleged on intentional or negligent wrongdoing on the part of Massage Envy employees.

Allegations of sexual assault date back nearly the founding of Massage Envy, yet most cases reported to the company were poorly handled and kept quiet. Despite some improved policies just recently (changes that came only after nearly 200 lawsuits were publicized) Massage Envy lacks transparency and accountability to the public about just how dangerous their spas are for women.

Massage Envy’s sexual assault problem finally exploded into the public’s awareness when one brave woman, Susan Ingram, refused to be silenced by Massage Envy’s team of lawyers. Her willingness to go to the press led to a breakthrough investigative journalism piece by Buzz Feed in November 2017, “More than 180 Woman Have Reported Sexual Assaults at Massage Envy.” Buzz Feed followed up their viral report with a second in August 2018, “Dozens More Women Say They Were Sexually Assaulted At Massage Envy.”

A simple Google News search turns up many news reports about Massage Envy’s poor handling of numerous sexual assault cases. Below are copies of a handful of lawsuits and personal accounts from survivors.

Massage Envy Quote - Susan Ingram

"It was a feeling of complete evil in the room in the dark...I felt his erect penis grinding into my hand and I froze in fear...he then reached up both legs put his fingers in and out of my vagina and asked me how my 55-year-old body felt now."

Soon after the assault, Susan reported the attack to the spa manager, "she responded with I invite you in to talk about your services. I asked the manager if he was giving a massage to another woman. She said yes. I responded with 'Please, I am begging you to do the right thing; I am begging you to get down there, open that door and get that woman out. She said I can't do that."

Susan says Massage Envy knew of at least one incident before her assault. "I was the prey. He was the predator. They knew it. I didn't. This shouldn't have happened."

Susan Ingram

Victim of sexual assault at a Massage Envy in Pennsylvania (taken from interview with ABC News)

"During the massage appointment, EGUSQUIZA placed his hand underneath the massage draping, pushed her panties to the side, and digitally penetrated JANE DOE’s vagina.

When EGUSQUIZA observed that JANE DOE was in distress and told EGUSQUIZA to stop, he apologized to her and also asked her to keep his actions a secret."

Excerpt from Lawsuit

JANE DOE vs. FIRST WORLD FINANCIAL CORP. d/b/a MASSAGE ENVY OF CORAL GABLES (April 2018)

Massage Envy Quote - Lawsuit Excerpt 2

On May 19, 2017, S.P.K went to MASSAGE ENVY to obtain a sixty-minute massage. DEFENDANT was assigned to perform her massage. When S.P.K was lying face down on the massage table, DEFENDANT was massaging her buttocks and digitally penetrated her anus. S.P.K was immediately distraught and visibly uncomfortable and she immediately moved his hand. This violation occurred when S.P.K was naked and in a vulnerable position.

S.P.K did not invite, induce, ratify, implicitly consent, or comply with this sexual contact. To the contrary, S.P.K was mortified and in shock at DEFENDANT's actions. She was in disbelief at this violation by a licensed massage therapist.

Excerpt from Lawsuit

S.P.K. vs. KAM CONCEPTS, LLC d/b/a MASSAGE ENVY SPA PGA and DEFENDANT (Jan 2018)

SMITH had treated J.W. before and knew that this was the first time J.W. came to MASSAGE ENVY without her husband. Approximately 80 minutes into the 90-minute massage, RAYMOND SMITH, JR. placed his hand on J.W.’s vagina and began stroking it as if he was trying to sexually satisfy J.W. J.W. initially froze. She was in shock and disbelief as it was the last thing she expected or contemplated in this relaxed state. Once she gained composure, she told SMITH to stop and that she did not want to be touched there. RAYMOND SMITH removed his hand and apologized to J.W.

SMITH remarked that she was “juicy down there” while referring to her vagina. He also remarked that she had “exquisite legs”.

Excerpt from Lawsuit

J.W. vs. CB INVESTMENTS LLC d/b/a MASSAGE ENVY (April 2015)

Massage Envy Quote - Anonymous

"All of a sudden he ran his hand down my chest down my stomach and right into my underwear. He had my hands over my head and he was restraining my arms. It felt like it went on forever."

Fox 11 Los Angeles Reporter: "Massage Envy has not been helpful with her situation. She says the company is trying to force her to settle the case in arbitration and she is insisting on a trial."

Anonymous

Survivor of sexual assault at CA Massage Envy & 15-year-customer (taken from NBC news clip)

Take Action

Tell Massage Envy to Improve Their Policies Regarding Sexual Assault

Share Your Story

If you have been sexually assaulted or harassed or felt uncomfortable during a massage at a massage establishment and you would like to share your story, you can do so anonymously here. We will use these stories in our advocacy to improve guidelines in the massage industry.

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