Sexual Assaults at Massage Facilities: An Industry in Need of Regulation

Sexual Assaults at Massage Facilities: An Industry in Need of Regulation

While the issue of sexual assaults in massage facilities may have faded from the headlines in the past few months, it’s far from fading out of reality.

The topic first became viral news in November of 2017, when the national spa franchise, Massage Envy, was accused of mishandling the sexual assault reports of over 180 female clients. Even more disturbing than the numbers were the company policies unearthed in the investigation. Massage Envy franchisees had been trained to prioritize public image and customer retention above all else. Complaints were to be handled in-house, and accusers were required to return to the scene of the crime in order for their reports to be considered credible.

New Policies Serve the Same Old Purpose: Public Image

Massage Envy initially denied all responsibility for activities at franchise locations. A month later, they backtracked on this statement and rolled out a new sexual assault prevention policy. The new policy requires annual therapist background checks and instructs franchisees to offer any accusers a private place in which to call law enforcement.

The policy does not, however, require managers to report any incidents themselves, either to law enforcement or to state regulatory boards. And, as some former employees note, it was only instituted in the wake of public outcry and lost revenue.

Before 2017, Massage Envy already knew about the frequent sexual assaults and took no preventative action. Perpetrators were allowed to continue work after multiple accusations, or were quietly fired with no record of their actions, allowing them to continue massage work in other spas.

Whenever incidents reached the point of legal proceedings, Massage Envy’s lawyers routinely harassed and intimidated victims, calling them negligent for frequenting the spa in the first place and arguing that sexual assault was an “assumed risk” of receiving a massage.

The Georgia Board of Massage Therapy Exists in Name Only

Georgia has suffered more than its share of this nationwide issue, and many local perpetrators are still licensed by the state board. This is due not only to underreporting by spas, but to the practices of the board itself.

An investigation by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that, of the 26 complaints filed with the board from 2015-2017, only one disciplinary action was taken, against a masseuse already accused of abusing 13 women. The board, which is openly more concerned with preventing prostitution than patient abuse, claims that it can’t be expected to know about its licensees’ crimes, even when said crimes are in the news or have already led to a conviction.

This level of inaction would be shocking whatever the reason, and some survivors reasonably attribute it to indifference rather than inability, citing unresponsiveness even when they’ve personally provided the necessary information.

Altogether, it’s clear that inadequate regulation of the massage industry goes beyond the policies of a single company. Perhaps it’s time to reexamine the entire practice of massages performed by poorly screened strangers in dark rooms free of chaperones or cameras.

If you’ve already been victimized in such a facility, please know that you can fight back, and you don’t have to do it alone. Reach out to the experts at the Stoddard Firm for a free consultation today.

What To Do If You Have Been Sexually Assaulted At A Massage Parlor

First, call the police immediately and then cooperate fully both with the police department and with the relevant district attorney’s office that will be prosecuting the case.  Second, and while its unlikely to do much good, you should report your claim to the Board of Massage Therapy.

Third, call the Stoddard Firm.  Unlike the Board of Massage Therapy, we will quickly investigate and determine whether you have a legal case against the massage parlor.  Call or contact us online for a free consultation on how our dedicated professionals can help you get the compensation you need and deserve.