Massage Envy and Sexual Assault Lawsuits
The story first broke on Buzzfeed News when freelance writer Katie J.M. Baker released an investigative report focusing on the claims of over 180 women (and a handful of men) who claim that they have been sexually assaulted by massage therapists at the popular chain of health spas. Eight years later, almost all of the women involved have filed personal-injury lawsuits against Massage Envy in an attempt to hold the company responsible for their alleged abuses.
The allegations outlined by Buzzfeed News are the most recent in a series of similar lawsuits filed by disgruntled customers against Massage Envy. These cases began to make headlines after the mass shooting at a crowded Orlando nightclub. This prompted many local women to file a class-action lawsuit against the company, claiming that its employees knew of the risks involved in providing massages in public places.
According to Buzzfeed, the first lawsuit was filed by a Florida woman named Jessica Valenti. In that lawsuit, she stated that she received a “violent or otherwise inappropriate” sexual assault while relaxing in a Jacuzzi at a Miami spa. She went to the hospital but did not receive treatment because, she claimed, the incident was not considered a sexual assault. After reporting her ordeal to an attorney, Jessica was reportedly fired from the spa after filing the initial lawsuit.
The most recent lawsuit stems from an incident which occurred at a Envy location in Texas. Jessica claimed that she and her husband had taken the couple’s children to Envy spas in Dallas and Houston before they arrived back in Texas. During the vacation, Jessica said, a male employee forced himself on her after taking her for a massage.
According to Jessica, she notified the manager at the time and spoke with him several times, but the company failed to act quickly enough when one of the managers learned about the alleged incident. She then filed a harassment complaint against the man, which led to an internal investigation conducted by the company and subsequent lawsuit.
The same pattern has repeated itself at other Envy locations around the country. In some cases, employees or managers at the Envy spas have failed to promptly report the alleged abuses, allowing customers to file lawsuits and seek compensation.
In some of the lawsuits, the alleged abuse has occurred in areas where massage is provided to children, such as at a Disney World locations. When such reports come to the attention at these places, they may lead to a temporary ban on all massages until further notice.
The lack of consequences caused by these lawsuits on massage providers is what’s driving the attorneys working on these cases to take aggressive stances in pursuing the case. In addition to seeking damages, attorneys are now taking the opposite tack: suing the company to prevent the alleged abuse from happening in the future.
One type of lawsuit is filed by the victim who claims she was subjected to a sexual assault while in a Jacuzzi. In such cases, a victim of sexual assault is seeking compensation for emotional pain and suffering. She is also claiming monetary damages because of the emotional trauma she suffered, the injuries resulting from the alleged attack, and possible medical bills. that may result from the assault.
Another type of sexual assault lawsuit involves a male employee fondling a female client during a massage. In this case, the woman claims that she was fondled by the employee while he held her hand while massaging her back in a Jacuzzi. and that this was done while she repeatedly asked him to stop.
In both cases, the accused staff members reported the incident to their supervisors at the massage shop. However, in some cases the alleged victim and her attorney are not aware that the alleged victims contacted their bosses.
According to attorneys who represent the complainants in these cases, the victims feel pressure to remain silent in these situations and choose to keep their mouths shut out of fear of losing their jobs. In many cases, these complainants also refuse to discuss the incident with their attorneys and fail to take care of other clients in their absence. These cases also fail to receive appropriate representation and may be dismissed as frivolous.