NEW YORK — A well-known national massage chain is now the latest public entity facing accusations of sexual assault.
More than 180 female customers of Massage Envy have accused male massage therapists of groping and penetrating them while on the massage table, BuzzFeed reported, citing lawsuits, police reports and other complaints.
Several of the female accusers have issued complaints to management of Massage Envy - which operates more than 1,200 spas across the country - about the alleged assault that they have experienced. The company does not require its franchises to inform police when accusations of sexual misconduct are made against the company, according to the report.
Instead, each location is required to conduct an internal investigation.
One alleged incident involves customer Susan Ingram, of West Chester, Penn., who said she was sexually assaulted in May 2015 by massage therapist James Deiter.
Ingram told CBS News, Deiter began rubbing up against her before grabbing her breasts and touching her inappropriately on the lower half of her body. After leaving the spa, she called the Massage Envy location where it occurred to inform them of what had happened.
The call was reportedly taken by the manager, Nicole.
"She said in a very apparently scripted response, 'We invite you in to talk about your services.' And I said, 'No, no, no you don't understand,'" Ingram said.
After hanging up the phone, Nicole allegedly chose not to intervene in Deiter’s ongoing massage of another client.
Ingram called police and Deiter didn't deny the accusations, eventually pleading guilty to molesting nine women.
“We hold franchise owners accountable to our policies and, when we say nothing is more important to us than treating clients with respect and giving them a safe, professional experience, we mean it,” Massage Envy told BuzzFeed in a statement.
According to the company, their therapists have done approximately 125 million massages in the past 15 years.