Nearly 200 women have filed civil lawsuits against Massage Envy, accusing the nation’s largest massage spa chain of creating an environment that allows or encourages company employees to commit heinous sexual assaults against unsuspecting patrons.
Massage Envy Partners With RAINN To Tackle Sex Assault
Former Massage Envy clients from across the country have now stepped forward. Many were inspired by the brave stories described in Katie J.M. Baker’s November piece for Buzzfeed, in which the reporter detailed allegations from over 180 police reports, civil lawsuits and state licensing board complaints.
And Massage Envy is feeling the heat. While the company has consistently denied all liability for the wave of apparent assaults, representatives in Scottsdale, Arizona have also committed themselves publicly to creating real change, both on the corporate level and in Massage Envy’s over 1,100 franchise locations.
RAINN Begins “End-To-End” Evaluation Of Massage Envy Policies
In December 2017, Massage Envy announced a new partnership with RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, perhaps the nation’s leading non-profit devoted to supporting sexual assault survivors. As a consultant, RAINN says it will perform an exhaustive assessment of Massage Envy’s policies on client safety and provide victims with free support through its National Sexual Assault Hotline.
The organization’s full proposal is cited below:
“This top-to-bottom review includes an overall comprehensive program assessment of Massage Envy’s prevention measures, such as misconduct policies and protocols, as well as response services, including disclosure and reporting, and victim advocacy and employee assistance. RAINN will review Massage Envy’s awareness and outreach methods and procedures and evaluate the education and training programs to determine effectiveness and recommend improvements.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of women continue to fight on in courts across the nation, accusing Massage Envy of allowing dangerous abusers to find ample opportunities for assault behind closed doors.
A 6-Point Plan For Change
In addition to RAINN’s new role in improving Massage Envy’s sex assault prevention and response programs, the company has released a six-point plan designed to “build a solid foundation for change” within the franchise:
- Background Checks – Massage Envy will perform annual background screening updates for all massage therapists. The company is also contracting with Universal Background Screening, a company that will provide an automated system for tracking compliance requirements in real time. Massage Envy says it just completed a full background screening of all the currently-employed massage therapists at its franchise locations.
- Reporting – Massage Envy is implementing a new policy under which franchisees are required to provide clients with contact info for local police and a private room to call the authorities in the event of a sexual assault allegation.
- Investigation – Massage Envy’s corporate office is putting together a list of independent third-party companies who can facilitate sex assault investigations for franchise owners.
- Corporate Policy Review & Reform – The experts at RAINN will conduct an end-to-end review of Massage Envy policy and procedure.
- Survivor Support – In collaboration with RAINN, Massage Envy will develop “response services, including victim support” for clients who are assaulted by franchise therapists. While no details of these services have yet been released, the company says “free access to immediate confidential assistance” will be provided.
- Advisory Council – To provide ongoing guidance, Massage Envy is establishing a Safety Advisory Council to “develop, maintain and implement strong safety and support standards.” The Council will “initially” include a representative from RAINN and Danielle Dick, a university professor in Virginia who spoke out after being assaulted by a Massage Envy therapist in 2015.
Massage Envy says it has formed a dedicated corporate department to enact the Advisory Council’s recommendations.
Survivor Advocates Declare “Victory”
The company’s recent response to the sex assault scandal has impressed some prominent members of the advocate community.
After stepping forward to tell her story, Danielle Dick started a Change.org petition, hoping to pressure the franchise into “chang[ing] their corporate policy to put in place better procedures to protect their clients and to support individuals who are sexually assaulted at Massage Envy stores.” Within little more than a month, the petition had garnered over 62,000 signatures, along with several responses from Massage Envy and the company’s CEO, Joe Magnacca.
In a post (titled “We won!”) to her petition on December 5, 2017, Dick wrote of Massage Envy’s six-point plan as a victory: “Massage Envy leadership has finally demonstrated that they are taking this issue seriously, and that they are committed to establishing themselves as a leader in this area.”