A well-known national massage chain is now the latest public entity facing accusations of sexual assault.
More than 180 female customers of Massage Envy have accused male massage therapists of groping and penetrating them while on the massage table, BuzzFeed reported, citing lawsuits, police reports, and other complaints.
Several of the female accusers have issued complaints to management of Massage Envy - which operates more than 1,200 spas across the country - about the alleged assault that they have experienced. The company does not require its franchises to inform police when accusations of sexual misconduct are made against the company, according to the report.
There is one Massage Envy location in the Quad Cities metro area, on Elmore Avenue in Davenport. No Iowa stores were included in the list of franchises identified with complaints. The Davenport location referred questions to the company's corporate office, which responded with the following statement:
"Each of these incidents is heartbreaking for us and for the franchisees that operate Massage Envy locations, and we will never stop looking for ways to help our franchisees provide a safe environment at Massage Envy franchise locations. The article references 180 reported incidents. These occurred over a span of 15 plus years and 125 million massages. But, we believe that even ONE incident is too many, so we are constantly listening, learning, and evaluating how we can continue to strengthen our policies with respect to handling of these issues."
One alleged incident involves customer Susan Ingram, of West Chester, Penn., who said she was sexually assaulted in May 2015 by massage therapist James Deiter. After leaving the spa, she called the Massage Envy location where it occurred to inform them of what had happened. The manager, Nicole, who answered the phone allegedly chose to not intervene in Deiter’s ongoing massage of another client after taking the complaint.
Ingram called police and Deiter didn't deny the accusations, eventually pleading guilty to molesting nine women.
“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,” Massage Envy told BuzzFeed in a statement.