Massage Envy Sexual Assault Lawsuits

Dozens of assault survivors have filed suit against Massage Envy, accusing the massage parlor chain of failing to protect them from sexual abusers. Legal action may be possible.

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Brian Kent “Private businesses have a duty to protect their customers. This duty is most important in massage parlors, where vulnerability is assumed and encouraged.”

— Brian Kent, Esq.

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Vulnerability is expected and encouraged in massage parlors, where we lower our physical and emotional boundaries, allow our attention to drift and accept the intimate contact of someone we hardly know. Abusers gravitate to environments like this, places where people feel comfortable dropping their guard. That means every company offering massages has a duty to weed out potential sex offenders from their ranks, and respond swiftly to allegations of sexual misconduct.

Is Massage Envy Responsible For Sex Assault?

Despite the obvious need for strong policies to prevent sex assault, hundreds of women and men have placed themselves in the care of a massage parlor only to be victimized after lying on the massage table. Massage Envy, a chain of massage parlors with locations in 49 states, has become a focal point for this growing problem. The company has been hit by numerous sex assault lawsuits in recent years, with survivors alleging crimes from unwanted touching to penetrative rape.

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Even more unacceptable, widespread accusations suggest that the company’s “Zero Tolerance Policy” on assault isn’t being heeded, and customer’s complaints aren’t being forwarded to the police.

Survivors Met By Silence & Denial After Assault

Many survivors, including a woman from Florida who filed a lawsuit against Massage Envy in August 2015, say the company’s corporate policies actually create an atmosphere that allows sexual offenses to occur.

Speaking with South Florida’s ABC News affiliate, the woman, whose identity has been withheld to protect her privacy, pointed to the company’s employee manual. Instructions given to every Massage Envy worker say that after a complaint of sexual misconduct is made: “administrator[s] should immediately respond to the guest’s needs and get them to a private room. Let them recover, allow them to explain what happened and document. Do not admit / deny / or make any promise about the allegation other than promise to investigate and take appropriate action.”

“Appropriate action,” however, seems to be very little. When they complain to management, or even the company’s corporate office, survivors report being ignored – or dismissed as frauds. In their own lawsuits, some victims even describe screaming from inside the massage room, without any response from the other employees working just outside the door.

Can I Sue Massage Envy For Assault By An Employee?

In most cases, yes. Many sex assault survivors have found that filing a civil lawsuit is the only way for them to secure any compensation at all.

Under a well-recognized legal theory known as respondeat superior, employers can be held liable for the damage done by employees, as long as that damage was inflicted in the course of employment. If an assault occurs during a massage, while the offender is ostensibly carrying out the duties of being a massage therapist, then it’s highly likely both the offender and the massage parlor can be sued.

In some instances, survivors will have to show that the massage parlor was negligent, and that its negligence allowed the assault to occur. Negligence is a broad concept, one that can be proved in a number of ways. Negligent hiring is a frequent allegation in lawsuits involving rape and sexual assault. Plaintiffs have also claimed that some Massage Envy franchisees continue to employ alleged sex offenders, even after clients have notified the owners of previous assaults.

What Counts As Sexual Assault?

While each state’s criminal code will define degrees of sexual assault differently, the fundamental concept behind these horrible acts remains universal. Sexual assault is any act of sexual contact to another person’s body that occurs without their own consent. Rape is usually defined in terms of penetration, either vaginal, anal or oral. Groping and forced kissing are also types of sexual assault, and can be just as degrading as rape. Consent is the key issue here. For a sex act to be consensual, and thus legal, all parties must voluntarily agree to participate.

For an in-depth look at the concept of consent, visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

Assault can happen to women and men, but violence against women remains a pervasive, and deplorable, aspect of our society. Even victims of rape can be told that an assault was somehow their own fault, leaving survivors burdened by feelings of shame, guilt or worthlessness that are as unfounded as they are psychologically damaging.

Can I Press Assault Charges?

Yes, and we believe you should.

If recent reports are true, neither Massage Envy nor its franchisees seem willing to confront this devastating problem head-on. While a swift police response is always best in cases of sexual assault, it becomes absolutely necessary when the site of assault is a massage parlor or other private business.

As soon as an assault occurs, survivors should contact the police to begin a thorough investigation of their allegations. Doing so can be difficult, though, since sexual assault often causes far-reaching psychological effects, including denial. Thankfully, most states have established “discovery rules,” which allow survivors extra time to come to terms with their assault and file a civil lawsuit.

Once an initial report is made, victims have the option of asking the police to continue their investigation, with the assumption that criminal charges will be filed if sufficient evidence is discovered. Requesting a full investigation is referred to as “pressing charges.” But ultimately, the decision to pursue a criminal conviction is up to state prosecutors, and for the vast majority of survivors, that form of justice will never come. Only 3 out of every 100 rapists will face the consequences of their violent actions, according to US Justice Department data.

How Can A Sexual Assault Lawyer Help Me?

We know survivors of sexual assault deserve better than to have their allegations dismissed. We know victims deserve more than terminated investigations, and that no sex offender should walk away with impunity. But even when state prosecutors pursue a case, the criminal justice system makes punishing offenders its sole priority, leaving rape victims unsupported as they recover.

At Laffey, Bucci & Kent, our sexual assault lawyers believe that no abuse is acceptable. We’ve helped numerous survivors pursue just compensation, money they need to begin recovering. Now we want to help you.