More Than 180 Women Have Accused A Nationwide Massage Chain Of Sexual Assault

by Christina Marfice
Image via Diane Macdonald / Contributor / Getty Images

People are calling out Massage Envy for allegedly covering up hundreds of sexual assault cases

A bombshell report from Buzzfeed News has uncovered allegations of sexual assault from more than 180 women against massage therapists at Massage Envy, a chain of spas with nearly 1,200 locations nationwide. What’s even worse is that many who were interviewed in the report claim Massage Envy actively tried to cover up the assaults, allowing accused therapists to go unpunished and discouraging victims from talking to the police.

One of the heartbreaking stories comes from Susan Ingram, who “lay there, frozen in fear and disbelief,” while a therapist who was “enthusiastically recommended” by Massage Envy groped her breasts and forced his fingers into her vagina. After she left, she called the Massage Envy location to report the assault, but said an employee there refused to connect her with the spa’s owner. So she called the police, and last year, the therapist, James Deiter, pleaded guilty to molesting nine women during the few months he worked at Massage Envy.

In an email to USA Today, Massage Envy claimed it has a zero-tolerance policy that would result in the immediate termination of a massage therapist who assaulted or harassed a client. But the Buzzfeed report found otherwise.

“Some have kept massage therapists on staff even after multiple misconduct complaints,” reporter Katie Baker found. “Others have quietly fired therapists without reporting their offenses to police or state regulatory boards, allowing the therapists to move on to new professional opportunities with a clean record.”

Even Dieter, who was sentenced to five years in prison after admitting to repeatedly assaulting women, telling police, “I need help,” might still work there if Ingram hadn’t gotten the police involved, she told Buzzfeed.

“Massage Envy is a partner in crime,” she added. “They had every opportunity, on multiple occasions, to remove him from his position, and they chose not to.”

Massage Envy has predictably come under fire since the report was released on Sunday, and many on social media are calling for a boycott of the chain.

Meanwhile, Massage Envy said in a statement sent to several news outlets that it’s reviewing its policies for handling assault under its roof.

“We believe that even one incident is too many,” the statement said. “We are constantly listening, learning and evaluating how we can continue to strengthen our policies with respect to handling of these issues.”

If we’ve learned anything from reports in recent months, it’s that once a wave of women come forward to tell their stories of assault, abuse and harassment, it emboldens others who haven’t felt safe speaking out before. If that’s the case here, the shocking number of women who have complained about Massage Envy so far may only scratch the surface.