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.
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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.
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.
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.
“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.
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:
Massage Envy says it has formed a dedicated corporate department to enact the Advisory Council’s recommendations.
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.”