Nearly 200 women say they were sexually assaulted while visiting Massage Envy locations across the U.S., BuzzFeed News reported on Sunday.
The investigative report said more than 180 women have filed sexual assault lawsuits, police reports and state board complaints against the massage chain, its franchised locations, and employees.
Massage Envy provides little guidance to its 1,170 franchised locations in 49 states on how to properly handle sexual assault claims, BuzzFeed reported. Women told the news organization they believed their complaints, which include groping, and digital and oral penetration, were ignored or pushed aside by the company while assailants continued working at Massage Envy or elsewhere in the profession. In some cases, multiple women reported assault by the same massage therapist before Massage Envy took action.
Eight women joined together in a lawsuit against a West Chester, Pennsylvania, location. That case is scheduled for trial in January.
Massage Envy said in a statement to NBC News that the BuzzFeed report was “heartbreaking.”
“Even one incident is too many. That’s why we will never stop reinforcing to our franchisees the importance of a safe environment,” the company said.
Massage Envy maintains it is not legally liable for sexual assault claims made against massage therapists, since franchise owners are responsible for day-to-day operations of individual locations.