CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In the years after more than 180 women reported sexual assaults linked to the nation's largest massage chain, the North Carolina Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy has received roughly a dozen complaints involving Massage Envy locations, according to NCBMBT Administrative Director Elizabeth Kirk.
"Eight complaints were alleging inappropriate sexual contact during a massage and bodywork therapy session," Kirk said. "Six therapists were disciplined and two are only pending because they are going to be reviewed by the Board at their June 2019 meeting."
Kirk confirmed several of the Massage Envy therapists accused of inappropriate sexual contact worked at Charlotte-area locations.
She said one worked at Massage Envy in Mooresville and the University location.
According to disciplinary records signed in October, the newly licensed therapist denied the allegation, but the state still revoked his license.
Another therapist, now on probation, worked at the Massage Envy on Rea Road, according to Kirk.
Records show he too denied the allegation, but a signed October 2018 consent order shows he now has to take ethics and boundaries training
A third came before the state board in February. He is also on probation and has to take ethics and boundaries training. The state said he worked at the Massage Envy in Ballantyne Village.
The board is considering possible discipline against one other local Massage Envy masseuse, set for a hearing next week. Kirk said the case is linked back to the Mooresville location.
In recent years and months, women in other parts of the country have spoken out with their own horror stories about Massage Envy therapists allegedly crossing the line.
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation named the company to its "Dirty Dozen" list this year, calling Massage Envy a major contributor to sexual exploitation.
"It's absolutely a systemic issue, the fact that we're seeing these assaults in Massage Envys across the country for years and years," National Center on Sexual Exploitation Advocacy and Outreach Vice President Haley Halverson said. "It's time for them to take greater responsibility."
The organization has asked Massage Envy to do more, even requesting the company put up signs alerting customers of their right to stop a massage if they feel uncomfortable and file a police report.
"Some people might feel comfortable in the moment to fight back or say something, but many freeze and don't feel like they can actually do anything," she said. "If you can't speak up in the moment, remember that there are resources for you afterwards."
In response to NBC Charlotte's questions, Massage Envy pointed us to its Commitment to Safety plan and said the company will never stop working to improve safety policies.
"Massage Envy is committed to promoting a safe environment for members, guests and service providers at each of our 1,200 franchise locations nationwide," the company said in a statement. "We urge anyone that experiences anything other than a safe, quality massage to report it immediately to the franchise location so that it can be investigated. Upon receipt of a complaint, Massage Envy policy requires franchisees to supply the victim with contact information for local law enforcement, the state board and the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline. The policy also requires the franchisee to provide a private room for the victim to contact law enforcement or anyone whom they choose. Massage Envy requires that its franchisees report to law enforcement when required by law, and to state boards or certification authorities that accept anonymous reports that protect the victim's identity."
The company also said its policies allow the victim to make a decision about what's best for that individual.
"Based on the guidance from leading sexual assault experts, including RAINN, it is our policy to respect the victim's privacy and their right to decide whether they would like to report to law enforcement, the state board, or anyone else," Massage Envy said. "This victim-centered approach takes into account the effects of trauma and empowers the victim to make critical decisions on their own behalf to promote emotional healing."
If you want to know whether your massage therapist has faced discipline, you can search by name on the state's website.