West Chester, PA: Dozens of complaints of professional sexual misconduct and sexual assault are being made against Massage Envy, a franchised chain of about 1,200 spas nationwide.
The allegations are being made by more than 180 people who claim to have been sexually assaulted during massage therapy. Susan Ingram, a resident of West Chester, claims that during her seventh session with massage therapist James Deiter, at her local Massage Envy in West Chester, Deiter ground his erect penis against Ingram’s body. He groped her breasts. He put his fingers in and out of her vagina, all without any warning. Deiter had been recommended to her by the spa.
Ingram told Buzzfeed.com during an interview, that when the session was over and she was at home, she called the spa to report the sexual assault. However, the manager refused to interrupt the session Deiter was having with a female client, Ingram said, or to connect Ingram with the spa’s owner. Instead, the manager reportedly invited Ingram back to the spa to discuss her services. Ingram then called the police. They interviewed Deiter that afternoon during which he admitted to assaulting not just Ingram but other Massage Envy clients as well. The next year, Deiter pleaded guilty to sexually molesting a total of nine women, all during his work at Massage Envy, from the fall 2014 to the spring of 2015.
According to court records, two of those women attempted to alert the spa about Deiter, before Ingram’s encounter. Massage Envy had decided that the women’s allegations weren’t credible, in part because the women had made the accusations over the phone and wouldn’t return to the spa to discuss the events in person.
Reportedly, more than 180 people have filed sexual assault lawsuits, police reports, and state board complaints against Massage Envy spas, their employees, and the national company. According to the victims, many of the claims were mishandled or ignored by employees and owners of individual Massage Envy spas, as well as by the national company.
Buzzfeed.com also reports that there are more cases where women report abuse by massage therapists to police but no arrest is made, and that Massage Envy spas sometimes offer a settlement before a suit is filed, leaving no public record. Statistically, most victims of sexual assault don’t report at all.