Were you assaulted at Massage Envy?

News outlet BuzzFeed.com recently reported that more than 180 women have allegedly been victims of sexual assault at Massage Envy.  Massage Envy is a national chain of massage parlors that bills itself as an outlet for those with busy lives.  Recently, though, hundreds of women have alleged that therapists at the chain violated their bodies.

Case Example

Unfortunately, allegations such as these are not new.  And they are not limited to just those actively practicing massage therapy.  Attorney Dixon represented a woman who was sexually assaulted by a massage school student.  CBS Atlanta covered the story.  The American Professional Institute (“API”) was the name of the massage school.  As part of its offerings, API issued certificates in massage therapy.

One day, Attorney Dixon’s client visited API to receive a massage as a gift from a friend.  Sadly, the massage therapist sexually assaulted her once they were alone in the massage room.  The lawsuit uncovered evidence that API knew this was not the only time this particular massage student had assaulted a client.

Fortunately, the offending massage therapy student at API did not go on to a career in massage therapy.  In fact, the law prosecuted him.  But the question remains: why did he feel comfortable to assault our client in the first place.

Institutions Need to Help

Sexual assailants, rapists, peeping Toms, or whatever other variety of sexual miscreant often learn their behavior by permission.  In other words, family members or employers often don’t punish them after an incident.  When gatekeepers don’t punish assailants, they feel they can get away with it again.  In this respect, businesses are often “accomplices” in the abuse.  They sometimes know their employees are assaulting women or men.  But they allow the person to remain employed because the person is of financial value to the business.

Businesses can allow, and even create, a culture that tolerates sexual abuse or harassment.  The #MeToo movement is unmasking some of the pervasive institutional negligence, and #MeToo needs to get stronger.

Massage Envy changed its policy related to sexual assault after the BuzzFeed.com story.  Of course, this is too late for the women who allege Massage Envy already victimized them.