Over 180 women accuse Massage Envy of ignoring their sexual assault allegations. Attorney Brian Kent, one of the first lawyers to take on the case, comments on the growing scandal.
By Laurence Banville
In over 180 police reports, civil sex assault lawsuits and complaints, women across the country claim to have been assaulted by massage therapists at Massage Envy, the nation’s largest chain of massage spas, Buzzfeed News reports. Even more damning, however, are the allegations that, along with individual franchise locations, the company’s own policies instruct employees to ignore or dismiss allegations of sexual assault.
Massage Envy Accused Of Ignoring Sex AssaultMassage Envy is the country’s biggest massage chain, providing market visibility to nearly 1,200 franchise locations across the nation. The company’s franchisees draw in more than $1 billion in sales every year through a combination of massage and skin care services.
In a statement reported by Fox 29, Massage Envy confirmed that current corporate policy “does not require notification to law enforcement.” Instead, the company’s guidelines tell employees to handle claims of sexual assault “in-house,” a recent wave of lawsuits allege. Dozens of women say their complaints were ignored by franchise workers, even as dangerous predators continued to work without sanction.
Brian Kent, Esq. Leads Charge Against Massage EnvyThe most incriminating evidence comes from a series of 15 civil lawsuits filed in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas.
James Deiter worked as a massage therapist at a Massage Envy location in West Chester Pennsylvania between 2014 and 2015. The next year, he pleaded guilty to indecent assault and other charges related to the sexual assault of nine Massage Envy clients. Both the West Chester franchise and Massage Envy corporate were notified of the man’s misconduct, lawsuits claim, long before his eventual conviction.
Lawsuits: Company Policies “Enable Assaults”No one did anything, the women say. Even after being made aware of the allegations against Deiter, employees at the West Chester Massage Envy continued to recommend his services to other clients. Massage Envy’s corporate office instructed the employees not to report the allegations to local law enforcement or the Pennsylvania Board of Massage Therapy, the lawsuits continue.
At least six women are suing Massage Envy in the Pennsylvania State court. The company’s owner, Roark Capital Group, was initially included as a defendant but was dismissed from the cases. All of the plaintiffs are being represented by Brian Kent Esq., one of the first attorneys to take Massage Envy to court over allegedly mishandled sexual assaults. Kent is the lead sponsor at AbuseGuardian.com, a website created to help sex assault survivors find legal support.
Survivor Fights For Mandatory Reporting LawKent appeared along with plaintiff Susan Ingram on a spot for the Good Day Philadelphia program on Fox 29. Beyond filing suit against Massage Envy, Ingram is currently working on a piece of federal legislation that would require massage spas to report allegations of sexual assault to the police.
“Surprisingly, many states don’t require the reporting of a sexual assault if it happens in a massage business,” Kent told the reporters. “As it stands right now, in Pennsylvania and in a lot of other states, there’s no requirement to report it.” Supported by Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Meehan, Ingram is crafting federal legislation to change all that.