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    Massage Envy Mishandled, Ignored Sexual Assault Allegations, Lawsuits Claim

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    Attorney Brian Kent, an experienced sexual abuse and assault lawyer, comments on recent media news coverage of allegations of sexual abuse at specific massage envy locations around the US.

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    With almost 1,200 franchise locations across the country, Massage Envy is the nation’s largest chain of massage spas, pulling in over $1 billion in annual sales while offering services to tens of millions of paying customers. But as recent news reports have confirmed, the company may have a major problem.

    In dozens of civil lawsuits and police reports, patrons of the massage chain say that, after being sexually assaulted by massage therapists, Massage Envy ignored their complaints, dissuaded franchise employees from reporting assaults to the police and mishandled internal investigations. The story first broke on Buzzfeed News, when a November 26, 2017 investigative report published the stories of some 180 women who claim to have been groped, penetrated or coerced into sexual acts by Massage Envy therapists. It was picked up by other major news outlets, including USA Today, CNN and Business Insider.

    Investigations by civil attorneys have found evidence that many franchise locations take a decidedly “soft” approach when it comes to sexual assault. After being accused of assault, several therapists have even been rehired by the company’s franchisees, shuttling between locations despite the serious allegations against them. Lawyers now believe that Massage Envy’s corporate policies may actually create an environment that encourages sex assault. The company’s current policy, as Massage Envy made clear in a statement, “does not require notification to law enforcement.”

    Brian Kent, Esq., founder of the Pennsylvania-based firm Laffey, Bucci & Kent, was one of the first attorneys to take these cases on. In 2015, Kent filed at least six lawsuits on behalf of women who say they were assaulted at a Massage Envy franchise in West Chester, Pennsylvania. While the therapist in question, James Deiter, is now in jail on indecent assault charges, Kent says the fight for justice is just beginning.

    As alleged in civil complaints with the Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County, both the West Chester franchise and Massage Envy corporate became aware of allegations against Deiter before January 2015. He was suspended for one week, then “inexplicably” allowed to return to work, where he would continue to assault women during massage sessions. Massage Envy could have done far more to protect unsuspecting clients, Kent says. Massage Envy Franchising and its owner, Roark Capital Group, are both listed as defendants in the cases.

    Alongside one of the plaintiffs, Susan Ingram, Kent appeared on Fox 29 to discuss their ongoing fight for federal legislation that would obligate massage businesses to report sexual assault allegations.  Kent told reporters it's surprising that many states don’t require the reporting of a sexual assault if it happens in a massage business, and as it stands right now, in Pennsylvania and in a lot of other states, there’s no requirement to report it to law enforcement or a State massage therapy board.

    Susan Ingram wants to change that. With support from Pennsylvania State Representative Patrick Meehan, Ingram has been working with [Pennsylvania] Congressman Meehan to make sure there’s a federal statute that’s passed that will require every massage business to report whenever there’s an allegation, Kent continued. He is the lead sponsor of AbuseGuardian.com.

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    “Surprisingly, many states don’t require the reporting of a sexual assault if it happens in a massage business,”
    - Brian Kent, Esq.
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