Update 11/30 5:`18 pm: Four days after Buzzfeed’s report about the numerous sexual assault allegations filed against Massage Envy spas went live, the company’s CEO, Joseph C. Magnacca, sent out a letter via email to all prior Massage Envy Members and Guests who’d made appointments with linked email addresses about the situation. The email begins with an apology and goes on to outline the steps the company has taken since the news broke — and steps they plan to take moving forward. The email 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
In the midst of sexual assault allegations embroiling the nation from Hollywood to Capitol Hill, more than 180 women have just come forward with allegations of being sexually assaulted at Massage Envy spas, according to a report published by BuzzFeed News this week.
We’re in the midst of a much-needed sea change around sexual assault. Since news of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged predatory behavior, women across industries have been coming forward with stories of harassment and assault — taking down powerful men and powerful companies in the process. The latest entity to be accused is Massage Envy, a large spa franchise with nearly 1,200 locations across the country.
According to the BuzzFeed News report, over 180 women have “filed sexual assault lawsuits, police reports, and state board complaints against Massage Envy spas, their employees, and the national company.”
The reports are shocking, so consider this a trigger warning.
Women have reported being groped and digitally penetrated. One woman reported that her therapist inserted his entire fist into her vagina before ejaculating on to her face. Another pregnant woman reported opening her eyes to see her therapist sucking on her nipple. Over 100 women reported having their breasts or genitals groped.
The most disturbing part, like many stories of sexual assault that have come to light over the past several weeks, is the swiftness with which Massage Envy reportedly tried to sweep the reports under the rug.
After calling the spa to report an assault in which her massage therapist, James Dieter (who has since pled guilty to assaulting nine women), groped her and rubbed his erect penis on her, Susan Ingram says a manager refused to interrupt Deiter’s massage session. “I said to her, ‘Nicole, he stuck his fingers in my vagina less than an hour ago,’” Ingram said in court, according to BuzzFeed.
Before Ingram’s phone call, Massage Envy received two similar accusations against Deiter and did nothing about them. Why? According to the report, the spa had decided that the women’s allegations “weren’t credible” because they were made over the phone — all three women declined to return to the scene of the alleged crimes to “discuss the events in person.” “I was following the policy of Massage Envy and therefore I thought it was appropriate,” the owner said according to BuzzFeed.
Massage Envy does not require any of its locations to take steps to prevent or investigate sexual assault (except in a few states where local laws require it by law). Even if a client calls to report a rape, Massage Envy is not required to contact law enforcement. Instead, franchise owners are given vague instructions to conduct their own investigation. But that is often designed to protect the company — not the victim — said former Massage Envy clinic manager Kate Hardy. “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,” she told BuzzFeed.
Meanwhile, therapists accused of sexual misconduct are remaining at Massage Envy or being quietly fired without being reported to professional regulatory boards, which means they can easily go on to another spa with a sparkling clean record.
In response to the more than 180 allegations of sexual assault by employees of Massage Envy, the company says it’s not liable — the franchise owners are. But that will be for the judge to determine. Allure reached out to Massage Envy for further comment via email and a spokesperson sent us the following response:
“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.”
The unfortunate reality, is that this makes getting a massage — something that’s supposed to be relaxing — feel a lot more foreboding. Since you can’t always trust the spa to do the right thing, choose a massage therapist who has extensive online reviews or comes recommended by a friend. If something feels off, report it to law enforcement, state regulatory boards, and the spa immediately.
For more sexual assault news:
- Why So Many Sexual Assault Survivors Seem to Come Forward All At
- Uma Thurman Shows Controlled Rage While Addressing Sexual Assault in
- Lena Dunham Apologizes for Defending “Girls” Writer Against
Allegations of Sexual
See our November 2017 cover star, Amber Heard, explain the female superheroes of DC Comics: