Massage Parlor Sexual Assaults
Getting a massage is supposed to reduce your stress levels, and can potentially offer a variety of other health benefits. It’s a valuable care option for many individuals with chronic illnesses, and an affordable special occasion splurge for those trying to fit a luxurious escape into a busy schedule and tight budget.
Millions of Americans frequent massage parlors every year for various reasons, and the last thing anyone wants to think about during this ritual of relaxation is being on guard against an attack that could cause them permanent physical and psychological harm.
But as industry insiders have long known, and as most of the general public only recently found out, massage facilities have a miserable track record of protecting their clients from sexual assault.
Assault-Enabling Policies Have Not Truly Changed
The issue of sexual assault in massage parlors gained significant news coverage in November of 2017, when reports surfaced of more than 180 sexual assaults at Massage Envy spa locations across the country. These reports also brought to light Massage Envy’s corporate policy of protecting the brand at all costs, by dismissing customer complaints, refusing to involve law enforcement or state regulatory boards, and harassing any survivors who took legal action.
Once the scandal became too big to contain, the company’s self-preservation policies simply took a new form. Breaking with its usual tactic of denying all responsibility, Massage Envy instead made some superficial policy changes and claims of cooperation.
The new policy requires that accusers be given an opportunity to make a private call to the authorities, but it does not require location managers to make any reports themselves. It also calls for annual therapist background checks, which serve no purpose as long as therapists’ crimes go unreported, making those crimes impossible to discover through said background checks.
Perhaps most importantly, Massage Envy’s policy applies only to Massage Envy itself, and not to the systemic issues with the massage industry as a whole, such as:
- A limited pool of qualified therapists that has not kept pace with demand, making facilities unwilling to be selective about hiring and retaining staff
- Managers with no knowledge of appropriate massage techniques or training on how to handle incidents of criminal behavior
- Services being performed in private rooms with no cameras or witnesses
- Absence of federal regulation and uneven, inadequate regulation on state and local levels
Here in Georgia, for example, the board of massage therapy claims that it can’t possibly be expected to keep a record of massage therapists’ crimes, even when those crimes have received a conviction or high-profile news coverage. This indifference to regulating the massage industry, the very purpose for which the board supposedly exists, shows no signs of improving after recent events.
Massage Parlors Are Responsible for Keeping You Safe
Survivors of sexual assault often experience self-doubt and misplaced guilt. When an individual or business benefits from survivors’ silence, preying on these feelings is a common tactic. Massage Envy’s own lawyers once made a policy of accusing survivors of inviting sexual assault through their own negligence, simply by using the spa’s services.
In many cases, survivors also worry that they don’t have the grounds to accuse their attackers because they themselves did not do enough to fend off the assault. On the contrary, freezing is a common involuntary response to a sexual threat, part of the fight, flight, or freeze instinct. Finding yourself unable to fight back in the heat of the moment is not a sign of weakness or cowardice, and most importantly, it is not equivalent to consent.
In the case of sexual assaults in settings like massage parlors, the company usually shares culpability as well. In spite of all claims to the contrary, businesses are responsible for taking reasonable steps to ensure client safety. Failure to take misconduct complaints seriously and remove therapists who pose a known threat to clients is an egregious breach of that responsibility.
It’s normal to feel afraid and disoriented after a severe trauma, but make no mistake: you are in the right, and you deserve to be heard. Coming forward with your claim can protect potential future victims, and ensure that you have the resources you’ll need to cope with the long-term effects.
The Cost of Sexual Assault
There are many forms of sexual assault, and depending on your specific situation, you might end up facing unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and genital or internal injuries. Regardless of whether there are physical effects, you may also find yourself struggling with lifelong psychological symptoms, including:
- Sleep disturbances
- Difficulty establishing and maintaining healthy relationships
- Self-destructive impulses up to and including suicide
Support from a team of medical professionals can make a huge difference in your recovery, and the level of care you receive should not be limited by your ability to pay.
What to Do If You’ve Been Assaulted
First of all, get to a safe place and call 911. Make a full report to law enforcement, and get a full medical exam, even if you feel physically uninjured. Once your immediate needs are met, it may also be helpful, for the sake of records, to register a direct complaint with the massage company and the state board.
Do not take a quick “hush money” settlement or allow yourself to be intimidated into believing that what happened to you was unimportant, impossible to address, or your fault. Finally, reach out to the legal experts at the Stoddard Firm, online or at 678-RESULT, for a free consultation on how we can help you find justice.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Do I have a case?
If you’ve been injured because of someone else’s negligence, you could have a personal injury case. Every situation is different, so there’s no way to know if you have a case without consulting with a qualified personal injury attorney. If you are badly injured or a loved one has died, we are happy to speak with you and investigate the matter at no charge.
Do I have to go to court?
Not necessarily. Many wrongful death and personal injury cases are settled before they go to court. However, it is our experience that the most successful cases are built as if they are going to court. Our firm prepares every case to go all the way to trial, even if it is ultimately resolved before the trial starts.
What do your services cost?
A consultation with the Stoddard Law Firm is free. In most circumstances, we earn no fee unless we win your case. If your claim is successful, we take a percentage of the recovered amount.
How do I pick the right attorney?
You’ll want to look for several qualities when choosing who will represent you. Your attorney should meet with you instead of sending an investigator, and he/she should be available throughout the process instead of having you consistently talk to a legal assistant. Your attorney should have a low number of cases so he/she can devote significant time to you and your case. Your attorney should have experience handling cases with facts similar to yours, and your attorney should have a proven track record with similar claims. Your attorney should also be able to devote significant money to your case so that he/she can hire experts, travel the country finding witnesses, and depose whomever is necessary to achieve justice. It’s also important to make sure your attorney is the right fit on a personal level, which is why you should take advantage of a free consultation.
How much time do I have to file a lawsuit?
There is a time limit on how long a person has after an injury to begin a lawsuit. This window is called a statute of limitations. For most personal injury cases in Georgia, the statute of limitations is two years from the time the injury was suffered. However, there are exceptions and subtleties that might change the amount of time you are afforded. Sometimes the period can be as short as 6 months, and other times it can be much longer than two years. Determining the statute of limitations requires a detailed analysis of the facts of your case.