Sexual assault at Massage Envy massage parlors across the country has risen to the level of an epidemic. Hundreds of men and women have come forward with allegations of Massage Envy assault, ranging from unwanted touching to forcible rape. Likely thousands of individuals have been impacted by the practices of Massage Envy massage parlors, and the full scope of the Massage Envy complaints may never be entirely known. Most tragically, this manner of abuse still continues on unsuspecting massage parlor attendees on a daily basis. If you believe that you are a victim of this manner of abuse, it’s enormously important to be fully informed of your legal rights and remedies, as many of these rights may require your immediate action, or that of your Massage Envy assault attorney.
Massage Envy Assault: After the Incident, Before the Trial
Although TV shows, movies, and the news media often portray the real legal “action” of sexual assault cases as occurring in a criminal courtroom, almost all financial recovery for the victims of these crimes occurs in civil court, and is often settled before a full-blown trial even occurs. It is important to realize that, although sexual assault is a crime in every state, each state maintains its own definition as to what constitutes rape, assault, groping, and similar acts, which may or may not reflect common sense understandings of these terms. As a blanket statement, however, most sexual assaults are felonies, meaning that they can carry severe penalties (including jail time) for perpetrators, and are, generally, constitutionally required to be tried in front of a jury. It is similarly important to realize that not all suspected perpetrators of a sexual misconduct, such as massage therapists at Massage Envy, will be prosecuted. States have limited resources with which to pursue crimes, and must first obtain a so-called “indictment” prior to proceeding. An indictment means that the state prosecutor must go before a grand jury (similar to a “jury” traditionally thought of, but different in purpose) and argue that there is sufficient evidence to warrant a criminal trial against the individual. Although many prosecutors are extremely skilled at obtaining indictments, this process is an important, and constitutionally mandated, step in going to trial, and itself can take weeks or months to arrange, and its outcome is always at least somewhat uncertain.
Criminal Trial Period – Guilty or Not Guilty
After a Massage Envy assault indictment is obtained, a period of investigative discovery occurs, in which both the prosecutor and the defendant (the accused, for example, a Massage Envy massage therapist) will gather evidence to bolster their case. If a plea bargain is not obtained—for example, if the massage therapist does not choose to plea guilty to the crime in return for a reduced sentence or a more lenient punishment—a trial will be scheduled, usually months or years from the time of the indictment. Oftentimes, these criminal proceedings are among the most difficult and stressful for victims, as extremely private, embarrassing, and scarring details may be discussed in open court, and repeatedly relived by the victims months or years after the Massage Envy assault incident. Although skilled attorneys will devise ways in which your identity and details can be kept private, criminal trials can be an emotional rollercoaster for the victims of this manner of assault.
If a jury returns a “guilty” verdict (almost always requiring all jurors to agree that the perpetrator committed the Massage Envy assault or crime beyond a reasonable doubt), the perpetrator of the sexual assault will be sentenced, often to prison time, for the crime or crimes committed. If a jury is not unanimous, the perpetrator may be found not guilty or, in some cases, a “hung jury” (in which a jury cannot decide on a result) will result in a new trial, which, itself, may take months or years to schedule. The criminal may variously attempt to appeal a guilty verdict, which can even further draw out this process. This means that it is not infrequent that many, many years can transpire between when the crime was reported to the police and when the criminal is imprisoned, and several years further for the criminal to exhaust all appeals after imprisonment. Because a criminal trial is brought by the state in which the crime occurred, all expenses for the trial are generally paid for by the state, although, sometimes, victims of sexual abuse might wish to retain their own Massage Envy assault attorneys in connection with a civil trial (as described more below) and to advise them in ways to protect their privacy during the criminal case.
Civil Trial – Seeking Financial Compensation for Massage Envy Assault
Regardless of the outcome of the criminal case (if any) against the Massage Envy employee, a victim of sexual assault, to achieve full financial compensation for the abuse, must sue the perpetrator of the Massage Envy assault in civil court. Because, as noted, criminal cases are brought at the discretion of the state and prosecutor, and may depend on the state’s definition of assault and rape, the lack of a criminal case does not mean that victims of sexual abuse cannot receive financial restitution. The definition of sexual assault, for example, can be defined in one way for the purposes of a criminal prosecution or criminal law, but in an entirely different way for the purposes of a “tort,” or a so-called “civil” wrong. The definition of sexual assault in this civil context may be much broader than in the criminal context, meaning that victims have more opportunities to pursue financial relief.
Civil court differs from criminal court in that, in civil court, a lawsuit is brought directly by the victim via her or her attorney. Civil courts do not seek to punish perpetrators of sexual assault (although the moneys paid on behalf of their actions may be seen as their own form of punishment), but generally seek to compensate victims of Massage Envy assault for their financial losses, pain and suffering, and more. Very importantly, the so-called “burden of proof” for civil trials is significantly lower than for criminal trials: a victim must prove only that it is more likely than not that the sexual assault occurred, and, frequently, civil trials are conducted without a jury, or are resolved prior to trial actually occurring.
A civil trial is also, crucially, not limited to the individual charged with the crime. For example, in many Massage Envy massage parlor sexual assaults, although the sexual assault itself was committed by a single employee (who would be criminally liable for his or her actions), it may be the case that other employees, the manager, the owner of the franchise, or Massage Envy itself could all be financially liable and responsible for the assault. While these entities may not have committed cognizable crimes, they might still bear the financial burden of the injuries, and be legally mandated to provide compensation.
Criminal and Civil Cases Are Not The Same
Both a civil and criminal case for sexual assault can occur simultaneously, and each can benefit from the other: for example, the civil trial might benefit greatly from the police investigative work done by the police and prosecutor in a criminal trial. A “guilty” verdict in a criminal trial, though not conclusive for the purposes of a civil trial, can greatly benefit victims seeking financial compensation from the criminal, or any other employees or entities related to the criminal. In general, a skilled Massage Envy assault attorney, experienced in sexual assault and representing victims of these acts, is required to bring suit. Although you, as the victim, are required to pay for these attorneys and the legal costs involved in bringing a suit (which can sometimes be quite substantial), many sexual assault attorneys in such cases work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that they will only be compensated if and when you prevail at trial. These attorneys will usually take a percentage of the money that they are able to recover for you, both to cover their own fees, and also to cover the fees that have paid on your expense to the court, expert witnesses who might testify at trial, and so on.
Massage Envy Assault Victims: Preserve Your Rights
If you are the victim of massage therapist abuse at a Massage Envy assault parlor, it is extremely important to realize that there may be time limits on your ability to report the crime and to seek financial compensation for your injuries. Every state has a so-called “statute of limitations,” which states that you are unable to sue for your injuries after a certain amount of time. Although, in many states, the statute of limitations for sexual assault is several years, this amount of time could be significantly longer or shorter depending on your state, and, sometimes, depending on the manner of the assault and the identity of the perpetrator. A massage parlor abuse lawyer familiar with sexual assault law can best advise the time limits that you have to file your Massage Envy lawsuit but, suffice to say, it is extremely important to begin the process as soon as you feel able to pursue your rights.
All sexual assaults, even if you are unsure if the behavior that occurred legally qualifies as a sexual assault, should immediately be reported to both the police and to the Massage Envy massage parlor management. The police will generate a police report of the incident, which will become essential if you choose to pursue legal action against the massage parlor, and if the state chooses to prosecute the employee for sexual assault. Your report to the Massage Envy massage parlor management will serve as evidence that the assault actually occurred, and put both the massage parlor and the corporate Massage Envy business on notice of your incident.
Getting the Physical, Mental, and Emotional Support You Need
Moreover, you should seek immediate medical attention if the Massage Envy assault has resulted in physical or mental distress. For example, rape kits administered by hospitals can gather extremely important physical evidence that may be required to be collected immediately after the incident. Doctors and mental health professionals can appropriate document the effects of the assault in ways that may not be obvious to those not medically trained. The paper trail left by these professionals will similarly be enormously helpful in piecing together the timetable of the incident, and in fully understanding the extent of the injuries actually suffered.
After you have received medical treatment, it is important to, if you feel comfortable sharing, discuss this incident with your friends and family. How your friends and family see you react, and what they were told by you after the incident, can prove to be invaluable evidence that can bolster the credibility of your claim. For example, many friends and family of victims of sexual assault report that they noticed a definite change in the mood and affectations of the victim immediately following the assault and lasting well after, further lending credibility to the fact that the Massage Envy assault actually occurred, and that the damages suffered by the victim were real. Such evidence is all the more important in Massage Envy sexual assault cases, as frequently the only direct witnesses to the assault are the victim and the perpetrator of the assault.
Let the Attorneys Deal with the Courts
Your Massage Envy assault attorney should handle the delicate process of preparing you for trial, if you are called to testify in a criminal trial, and in preparing a civil suit against the parties responsible for the act. Your attorney will more than likely sue not only the employee of the Massage Envy massage parlor who perpetrated the act, but also the employee’s manager, who may have known or should have known about the abuse, the franchisee’s owner, and Massage Envy itself. Discovery regarding the employee in question might also occur: for example, had allegations of sexual assault been lodged against this employee in the past, or did the franchisee fail to perform a background check, or fail to follow the procedures enumerated in its operating documents. Moreover, questions such as whether Massage Envy itself fail to adequate train or inform its franchisee owners of the need to appropriately monitor and screen employees may be relevant to determine the extent of Massage Envy’s corporate responsibility and legal liability for the incidents that occurred.
Unfortunately, victims of sexual assault not only have to deal with the physical and mental anguish from the assault itself, but also, quite frequently, from prolonged emotional pain as they are forced to recount the events time and again to police investigators, attorneys, judges, and in the courtroom. It is therefore absolutely essential to retain an experience sexual abuse attorney who can zealously represent your rights, but also be sensitive to the pain, suffering, and trauma that Massage Envy sexual abuse has caused.
Thompson Law Office is here for you. If you or someone you know has been the victim of abuse at a massage parlor, including those operated under the Massage Envy franchise name, and you would like to know more about your legal rights and how you can seek compensation for your physical and mental suffering, please contact California massage parlor sexual abuse attorney Bobby Thompson for a free consultation from one of our skilled sexual abuse lawyers. Surviving therapist abuse is hard. At Thompson Law Office, we have heard many cases of therapist abuse stories. We have the experience and skills to get you the maximum compensation you need and deserve.