Over 180 women claim sex assault at United States massage chain

Massage Envy Times Square pop-up. Image via AP

Massage Envy Times Square pop-up. Image via AP

Dozens of women have accused employees of a popular massage chain of sexual assault and say the company has mishandled victims' claims or not addressed them at all, according to an investigative report by BuzzFeed News.

Women have come forward in droves to accuse massage workers in the United States of sexual assault, according to a report published Sunday. Numerous lawsuits claim the reports were ignored or mishandled by the company.

However, it turns out a number of those massages have crossed the line, and now 180 women are coming out with accusations stating they were sexually assaulted while under the parlor's care.

After five years, Kandice Martellaro says she can't shake the anger over what happened to her at Massage Envy and how it was handled.

Lawyers representing spa clients told BuzzFeed that the reported cases represent only a fraction of the incidents occurring, saying in some instances clients report sexual assault but no arrests are made, and in other cases Massage Envy has offered settlements before suits can be filed.

The Buzzfeed "article references 180 reported incidents", the company said in a statement to The Washington Post. "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", the company said.

One woman named Susan Ingram told BuzzFeed that massage therapist James Dieter stuck his fingers inside her vagina during her seventh session at a Pennsylvania Massage Envy location. Ingram will be the first accuser to face Massage Envy Franchising in court this January. "She was shocked when the manager refused to interrupt the session Deiter was having with a female client, Ingram said, or to connect Ingram with the spa's owner".

"It terrified me. I froze up", said Martellaro.

In Northeast Ohio, there are at least eight Massage Envy locations, including stores in Beachwood, Westlake, Avon, and Strongsville.

"I begged her to stop the massage and get him away from the woman", Ingram said, according to a court transcript.

She helped draft federal legislation that would require massage spas to report sexual assault allegations to police.

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