Massage Envy Times Square pop-up. Image via AP.

“Start on your well-being journey stay the fuck away from Massage Envy” is some common sense well-being wisdom posited by the national spa franchise Massage Envy. In an exhaustive report which reflects what amounts to the premiere strip mall employer of sex offenders, Buzzfeed News’s Katie Baker reveals that over 180 people have filed sexual assault lawsuits, police reports, and state board complaints against the company and its employees.

The piece leads with just one of an abundance of stories (all women’s) of groping, licking, genital touching and penetration:

On May 2, 2015, Susan Ingram lay facedown in the dark at her local Massage Envy in West Chester, Pennsylvania, one of the franchise’s nearly 1,200 spas nationwide. It was her seventh session with James Deiter, a massage therapist whom the spa had enthusiastically recommended. By now, Ingram trusted Deiter, and she closed her eyes and relaxed as he worked her muscles. Then, without warning, Deiter ground his erect penis against Ingram’s body. He groped her breasts. He put his fingers in and out of her vagina.

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That “masseuse” eventually pled guilty to nine counts of sexual molestation; when asked why the owner didn’t do anything about numerous complains were made to the spa itself, she said it was the spa’s “official policy” not to do anything until customers came in to report assault in person.

Lawyers would later ask the spa owner and another clinic manager why they would judge an alleged sexual assault victim on her willingness to return to the scene of the crime.

“I was following the policy of Massage Envy,” the owner said, “and therefore I thought it was appropriate.”

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“I was following the policy of Massage Envy,” the owner said...

...which is a damning thing to say about Massage Envy!

The whole concept of a chain spa which churns out entry-level therapists en-masse under a brand umbrella is a bad idea, says attorney Adam Horowitz, who represented victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

An inordinate amount of people are attracted to massage therapy because of sexual interest...Just like there was opportunity in the priesthood, there’s opportunity in the massage room. When you get a massage, your guard is down completely. You’re not expecting to be violated.

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Also similar to the Catholic church cases is the fact that Massage Envy executives were apparently aware of the issue; Buzzfeed News obtained one agreement requiring franchisees to buy an insurance rider “that protects them and the national company against at least three sexual assault claims per year.” A 2014 “communication guide” includes instructions for handling unnamed crises including a bolded line asking “Could it [bad thing] negatively impact Massage Envy’s Spa Brand?” Names of offending therapists are reportedly kept in a database, but nothing is done.

Buzzfeed News reports that Massage Envy employs 20,000 massage therapists.

In response to request for comment, Buzzfeed News writes:

Massage Envy told BuzzFeed News that it would not be “appropriate to respond point-by-point” to questions “because of pending litigation” and the confidential documents involved.

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New allegations have been stacking up in Buzzfeed News’s comments section over the past few hours. Read the whole piece here.