When a Massage Becomes a Crime
DISCLAIMER: This blog was written to inform the general public of the recent events that have occurred at popular massage parlors around the country. The information presented was gathered from multiple legitimate news sources, linked throughout the blog and again at the end.
According to an in-depth Buzzfeed investigation, as of November 2017, over 180 women across the country seeking a relaxing massage have reported being sexually assaulted at a Massage Envy spa. Despite the widespread reports, the billion-dollar company refuses to acknowledge that it is a problem it should resolve. Massage Envy places the responsibility on the individual franchises to handle reports of sexual misconduct, yet includes almost zero guidance in its policies to empower franchise managers and employees to do so. One Massage Envy customer is fighting for change.
In 2015, Susan Ingram appeared for a routine massage at her local Massage Envy spa in Chester, Pennsylvania with her regular therapist with which she had already had six sessions. Trust had been established between therapist and customer, and she lay on the massage table and closed her eyes, relaxing as the tension in her muscles eased. Without any warning, the therapist proceeded to sexually assault her, violating the massage therapy code of practice.
Ms. Ingram froze in fear and disbelief until her massage ended. She drove home and called the spa to report the assault. The manager refused to interrupt the appointment the therapist was having with another female client and also refused to transfer Ms. Ingram’s call to the spa’s owner. The manager invited Ingram to talk at the location of the assault. Ingram called police instead.
Later that afternoon, the therapist admitted to assaulting Ingram and other Massage Envy clients. A year later, the therapist pleaded guilty to sexually molesting nine women during his time at Massage Envy. Two of the nine women had warned the spa about the therapist before, but spa managers discredited their allegations.
Central Florida Spas the Source of Sexual Assault Complaints
Sexual assault is a prevalent issue throughout Florida massage parlors. In Orlando, Frederick Dost, a licensed therapist at the Dr. Phillips location of a popular massage spa chain, was accused of inappropriately touching female patients. One victim, who chooses to remain anonymous, suffered significant emotional trauma. She claimed that he touched her breasts and pushed his genitals on top of her head.
“When I wake up, it’s the first thing I think about. When I go to bed, it’s the last thing. I have nightmares,” she confided to reporters. The woman complained to the health department after Dost dodged criminal charges. Yet another woman filed a complaint against Dost, whom she saw while she vacationed to Siesta Key from Michigan. She claimed Dost did the same thing to her as to the previous victim.
In Clermont, another popular massage spa chain in Florida faces a lawsuit following allegations of sexual battery. Allegations against therapist Cesar Guerrero lead to his eventual arrest. He was formerly accused of inappropriately touching a woman at another spa in Winter Garden. He was subsequently hired by the Clermont spa during an open investigation.
The biggest issue assault victims face in the massage industry today is that offenders move from spa to spa with these accusations against them; even if they are fired, spa managers rarely report them to authorities. Likewise, hiring managers fail to conduct thorough background checks, letting accused and convicted criminals seep through the cracks. These negligent practices put people in harm’s way.
At The Umansky Law Firm, we aggressively fight on behalf of sexual assault victims. Our firm employs a robust team of personal injury attorneys in Orlando who aggressively seek justice for those who have suffered due to the wrongful or neglectful actions of a third party anywhere in Central Florida. Call our office for a free consultation or connect with us online. We are available to chat 24/7.