Massage Envy, the country’s biggest massage chain, is facing multiple lawsuits from its customers who claim they were sexually assaulted during sessions. In one recently filed action, Massage Envy Sexual Assault Claims from six California women suing Massage Envy for allegedly protecting its massage therapists who are accused of sexually assaulting customers.
Jane Doe #1”
One of the six plaintiffs is a San Francisco resident who’s identified as “Jane Doe #1.” She visited Massage Envy’s Burlingame location in November of 2017. The generic name is used to protect the victims’ identities due to the nature of the attacks.
The woman described an experience with 28-year-old Brandon James Davis in which he allegedly sexually assaulted her during a session, according to The East Bay Times, which cited the lawsuit.
Davis was being held on $250,000 bail on six felony counts of sexual battery by fraud and seven misdemeanor counts of battery. There were 12 other customers who reported massage therapist assault offenses against Davis.
The other five women in the lawsuit told authorities that they were also sexually assaulted at Massage Envy’s California locations in Elk Grove, Beverly Hills, Redondo Beach, Studio City and West Covina, according to The East Bay Times.
The plaintiffs detailed massages that “quickly devolved into forced sexual contact.”
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe remarked that the crimes alleged against Davis are unconscionable, the paper reported. He went on to say that when individuals place their bodies in the hands of a doctor, a dentist, or a masseuse, “they’re putting trust in them.”
Wagstaffe said that if proven to violate that trust with over a dozen women, Davis can only be described as “a true sexual predator.”
Massage Envy’s Response to Massage Therapist Assault Claims
Massage Envy’s headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona, responded in a statement:
While we aren’t able to comment on active litigation, we can tell you that we remain focused on our Commitment to Safety plan, which is further strengthening our existing policies. Safety is and will always be our priority and we will never stop working on it.
The franchise, which has nearly 1,200 spas nationwide referred the public to its website. There, the company lists the steps they’ve taken to address the sexual misconduct issue.
Criminal Behavior Present Throughout the Country: Massage Envy Abuse &Sexual Assault Claims by More Than 180 Women
In Florida, the story is much the same: two women said they were victims of massage therapist assault at Massage Envy’s Boca Raton location, according to a lawsuit filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.
That incident occurred in May of 2017 and is just one of almost a dozen separate massage therapist assaults described in the lawsuit. Investigators say this shows how prevalent sexual abuse is at the chain. The two unidentified women were among 11 who joined in the lawsuit that claims that Massage Envy placed its own profits before the safety of its customers at its franchises in West Palm Beach, Royal Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, and three locations along Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Similar to the California lawsuit, when customers complained of inappropriate touching, groping—and in some cases rape—to company management, in most instances, Massage Envy was said to have covered up the allegations against its employees. The women’s counsel say that rather than contacting the police or a state licensing board, Massage Envy’s policies permitted the abuse to continue.
Likewise, in the Philadelphia area, Massage Envy is facing more allegations of sexual assault and harassment.
At a West Chester Massage Envy, a customer informed spa employees that she had been assaulted there by a massage therapist in 2015. Her assailant, James Deiter, later pleaded guilty to molesting not only that woman but a total of nine women. He was later sentenced to at least 6½ years in prison in 2016.
A lawsuit filed in Middlesex County Pennsylvania sets out roughly 200 allegations of massage therapist assault by Massage Envy operators across the country.
Four New Jersey women detailed multiple incidents in the Garden State. That action accused Massage Envy of deceiving the public of “the dangers of its services,” again arguing that they tried to keep the allegations quiet and concealed the truth from the authorities, as well as state massage therapy boards.
And a report by The Arizona Republic says that at least nine civil lawsuits have been filed in Maricopa County alleging massage therapist assault and sexual abuse at Massage Envy locations since 2005. The newspaper said that some of the Arizona cases were settled, but others are ongoing. The suits accuse massage therapists of unwanted sexual touching during treatments. The report said that at least one therapist was accused a number of times.
In 2017, BuzzFeed News reported that more than 180 women had made accusations of sexual assault against Massage Envy’s massage therapists and managers. These customers have accused Massage Envy’s employees of crimes, such as unwanted groping, fondling, and sexual assault.
In addition, Massage Envy franchisees and managers have been accused of mishandling or covering up these incidents of alleged sexual misconduct.
The allegations reported by Buzz Feed took place over 15+ years and 125 million massages.
Massage Envy’s Review Policies Lacking
One former Massage Envy employee told the press that the company’s internal review policy isn’t in place to protect the client. This former Montana front desk associate and clinic manager of a Massage Envy location contends that the company’s procedures are in place to protect the company: they’re designed to de-escalate the situation so the customer doesn’t call the police. Massage Envy doesn’t want police officers in its lobby asking questions.
In many of the cases, the female customers didn’t know the names of the massage therapists who assaulted them. However, one woman in Largo, Florida filed a complaint with the State Board of Massage Therapy against a specific massage therapist. The Board revoked the license of the therapist, Murtagh Meyler. It’s still not known if criminal charges for massage therapist assault were filed.
No Duty to Report
Massage facilities like Massage Envy are not under a legal obligation in many states to report sexual assault claims made on their property.
Nonetheless, industry leaders explain that massage providers should acknowledge their implicit duty to address the issue as fully and as transparently as possible. To that end, the American Massage Therapy Association states that it “strongly believes that any massage therapist who steps over the line to inappropriate touch should face the legal consequences.” The AMTA emphasizes that victims should determine how to proceed but encouraged “anyone who feels there may be inappropriate behavior to call the local police immediately.”
This duty means that even if employees aren’t sure if a customer has been the victim of a crime, they should advise the individual to file formal charges with the authorities or state regulatory boards. In addition, victims’ rights advocates encourage massage facilities to prominently display their reporting policies and engage specially-trained, independent consultants if criminal allegations arise.
However, Massage Envy Franchising doesn’t mandate its spa locations take any of these actions. But for the select locations where local laws require it, the company doesn’t make its franchisees notify law enforcement of massage therapist assaults or hire qualified investigators to help determine what happened. This is the case, despite the severity of the allegation—even when the allegation is one of rape.
Instead, Massage Envy encourages its franchisees to conduct their own “prompt, fair, and thorough” investigation of any such claims. And they give almost no guidance on how to do this.
California Laws on Sexual Assault and Sexual Battery
State laws prohibit the unwanted touching of another person’s private areas. California law defines intimate parts as the victim’s “sexual organ, anus, groin, or buttocks of any person, and the breast of a female.” If a sexual assault results in nonconsensual intercourse with the victim, the charge is rape.
The prosecution must establish these elements to prove a case of sexual battery:
- The accused touched the victim’s intimate parts while he or she was restrained by the defendant or another person; the touching may occur through direct contact to the victim’s skin or indirect contact through the victim’s clothing;
- The touching was against the victim’s will, and the prosecution must establish that the victim didn’t consent to the contact; and
- The accused intended to engage in the unwanted touching for the purpose of sexual gratification, sexual arousal, or sexual abuse.
Massage Therapist Licensing
States typically have strict rules for the licensing of massage therapist. For example, in Arizona, licensed therapists must usually earn an associate of arts degree and complete 700 hours of on-the-job training, according to the Arizona State Board of Massage Therapy.
In addition, applicants for massage-therapist licenses in Arizona must be fingerprinted and are subjected to a background check.
California massage therapists are certified by the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC), but there are also statewide standards to work as a certified massage therapist in the state.
What Should You Do If You Have Been The Victim of Massage Therapist Assault?
Many women have been victims of sexual assault at Massage Envy spas and by other massage therapists. If you have been sexually assaulted at Massage Envy, Thompson Law Office understands that you have suffered an unimaginable physical and emotional injury. Our goal is to encourage women to come forward who have been the victims of massage therapist assault at a Massage Envy location.
The assault and massage therapist abuse is horrific, but the aftermath of being ignored and swept under the rug is unthinkable. You deserve justice, and you deserve to have your story heard by a court of law. You can join together with other women who have suffered the same experience you have suffered who are taking a stand to hold Massage Envy accountable for its actions.
If you are the victim of massage therapist assault, it is important that you contact an attorney to discuss your legal options. Your time to file a lawsuit is limited by law. Therefore, you do not want to wait too long to speak with an attorney about your Massage Envy lawsuit. At Thompson Law Office, we understand the sensitive nature of this issue. We represent women who have struggled with the decision whether to come forward. Therefore, we know that your decision to contact our office may be difficult.
Your consultation with one of our attorneys is strictly confidential, and you are under no obligation to retain our law firm. We simply want to provide you with the legal advice you need to decide how you want to proceed regarding a potential claim against Massage Envy. Regardless of your decision, you can trust that you will be treated with the respect, dignity, and compassion that you deserve.
Contact California Sexual Assault attorney Bobby Thompson if you or a family member has been sexually abused during a massage at Massage Envy. Thompson Law Office has the experience and skills to get you the maximum compensation you need and deserve.