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28 November 2017, 01:06 | Conrad Doyle
Susan Ingram is one of nine women who were sexually assaulted by a massage therapist at a West Chester Massage Envy location
A Sunday article from BuzzFeed News reports the largest massage franchise in the country is facing a number of lawsuits, citing police reports and firsthand interviews with victims.
BuzzFeed, however, says lawyers for the victims maintain many more people have settled claims outside the courts with no paper trail.
The members-only massage chain, which has seven locations in New York City, has come under increasing pressure after BuzzFeed News revealed that 180 customers have reported being sexually assaulted at various franchises.
According to the company, their therapists have done approximately 125 million massages in the past 15 years.
The therapist she claimed assaulted her is now in prison after pleading guilty to assaulting nine women while employed by Massage Envy, the ABC News story said.
"I think that some sort of serious audit needs to happen of the company and their protocol needs to be immensely changed", she said.
The piece begins with a graphic account by Susan Ingram, who brought a claim against massage therapist James Deiter after he reportedly "ground his erect penis" against her body before "put [ting] his fingers in and out of her vagina" in 2015. "I was following the policy of Massage Envy and therefore I thought it was appropriate", the owner said according to BuzzFeed.
Ingram tried to report her incident to Massage Envy, saying that Dieter "stuck his fingers in my vagina less than an hour ago", and pleaded on the phone for a spa manager to remove Dieter's female client from the room. "But, we believe that even ONE incident is too many, so we are constantly listening, learning, and evaluating how we can continue to strengthen our policies with respect to handling of these issues".
Ingram added that she later informed the manager about his behavior, only to be told that she was welcome to return to the massage parlor to discuss the incident.
"Massage Envy is a partner in crime", Ingram adds.
But overall, Melanie Hansen, general counsel of Massage Envy Franchising, said the company has worked hard to create the industry's "most stringent, rigorous policies" for hiring, screening, and training therapists. The company does not require its franchises to inform police when accusations of sexual misconduct are made against the company, according to the report.
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