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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Williamsburg massage spa not implicated in national scandal

James City County Police Department spokeswoman Stephanie Williams said there have been no police calls for assaults or sexual assaults at the parlor. (Steve Roberts, Jr./WYDaily)
James City County Police Department spokeswoman Stephanie Williams said there have been no police calls for assaults or sexual assaults at the parlor. (Steve Roberts, Jr./WYDaily)

Days after a national sexual assault scandal at a chain of massage parlors, Williamsburg spas have outlined their policies to prevent sexual abuse while state officials have said investigations into abuses aren’t public knowledge.

Massage therapists at Massage Envy, a national chain of massage parlors, were reported to have been implicated in over 180 cases of sexual assault, according to a story in BuzzFeed News on Sunday.

The chain has locations across the United States, including one in James City County, owned by Mark Banach.

Since opening in 2013, Banach’s Newtown massage parlor has not been implicated in any sexual assault court case, according to online court records.

James City County Police Department spokeswoman Stephanie Williams said there have been no police calls for assaults or sexual assaults at the parlor.

After reaching out to Banach for comment, Banach immediately referred a Williamsburg Yorktown Daily reporter to the corporate level of Massage Envy. Banach did not respond to a second request for comment by time of publication.

When asked if employees at the James City County location have had background checks and received sexual harassment training, Massage Envy provided a statement.

“All franchised locations must adhere to our stringent standards and policies,” said Melanie Hansen, chief of compliance at Massage Envy. “These policies include the requirement that all therapists employed by Massage Envy franchisees be licensed or certified by the state in which they work. In addition, all therapists employed by franchisees are required to go through an accredited background check and reference checks before they are hired. All therapists employed at Massage Envy franchise locations go through mandatory training in order to be placed on the schedule and to perform services.”

The company said franchises, such as the location in Newtown, are independently owned and operated. Therefore the corporate entity retains no employment records. On average, 17 employees work at a Massage Envy location, the company said.

The state’s online lookup for punishment of massage therapists includes no reference to the Massage Envy in James City County, nor The Giving Tree Day Spa or the Spa at Colonial Williamsburg. (Steve Roberts, Jr./WYDaily)
The state’s online lookup for punishment of massage therapists includes no reference to the Massage Envy in James City County, nor The Giving Tree Day Spa or the Spa at Colonial Williamsburg. (Steve Roberts, Jr./WYDaily)

George John, a manager of The Giving Tree Day Spa in upper York County, said they have put policies and training in place to make sure sexual abuse doesn’t happen to its employees or its clients.

All massage therapists are licensed by the state Board of Nursing and receive ethics training to help prevent situations where abuse could occur, according to John.

The Virginia Board of Nursing is the regulatory body for massage therapists across the commonwealth.

The body does not make most information on massage therapists publicly available, according to Diane Powers, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Health Professions.

The board investigates complaints if there may have been a violation of regulations concerning the ethical conduct and practice of a licensed massage therapist, Powers said.

However, all investigations by the board are kept away from the public’s eye.

“Health regulatory boards are unable to confirm or deny whether there is or has been an investigation,” Powers said.

“We do our best to partner with our local media however at this time we have no comment,” said Shaun Coleman, executive director of marketing and sales at Colonial Williamsburg hotels.
“We do our best to partner with our local media however at this time we have no comment,” said Shaun Coleman, executive director of marketing and sales at Colonial Williamsburg hotels. (Courtesy Google)

When an investigation results in the board denying, suspending, or terminating the license of a massage therapist, some information becomes publicly available, according to Powers.

The state’s online lookup for punishment of massage therapists includes no reference to the Massage Envy in James City County, nor The Giving Tree Day Spa or the Spa at Colonial Williamsburg.

“We do our best to partner with our local media however at this time we have no comment,” said Shaun Coleman, executive director of marketing and sales at Colonial Williamsburg hotels.

For John, the best practice a massage therapy company can do is to be cautious with clients and train employees about the ethics of the service.

“The only thing you can do from an owner’s standpoint is to weed out your customers and weed out therapists who want to use this as an avenue for them to make additional money doing something you don’t allow, that’s really it,” John said. “Your hands are tied.”

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