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Woman allegedly sexually assaulted at Short Pump Massage Envy wants safety changes

"They need to be held accountable."
Posted at 4:25 PM, Mar 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-11 10:28:02-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- You can find them across metro Richmond and in many other cities offering people affordable access to a professional massage.

For well over a decade, a local woman who requested we conceal her identity, was one of the more than 1.6 million Massage Envy customers who put their money and their trust in the company.

"Always felt safe, always felt I was going into a recognized establishment that's trusted," the woman said.

That is, until August 2019, when she said she became a sexual assault victim inside the Massage Envy in Short Pump.

"I guess just went into survival mode and completely froze up," the woman said.

She said when the massage ended, she was so in shock, she raced out of the spa and spoke to no one.

"Went out to my car and cried," the woman said.

She then called her sister who took her to the Henrico Police Department.

From there, they went to the hospital for a forensic exam.

"It's a very lengthy and difficult thing to go through, it's just more probing and discomfort and more shame," she said.

The masseur, Anthony Contino, was charged with aggravated sexual battery.

The police went to Massage Envy that very day to report the alleged assault.

Attorney Stewart Ryan with Laffey, Bucci & Kent, LLP is representing the woman in this case.

He said his firm has more than 100 plaintiffs in active litigation against Massage Envy locations across the country.

"I can tell you the cases we're handling against Massage Envy completely run the gamut in terms of the nature of the sexual contact involved, from inappropriate touching of breasts and genitals to digital penetration to forcible sexual intercourse," Ryan said.

Ryan called the issue an epidemic and said Massage Envy needs to do more to protect customers.

"It doesn't appear that anything is being done, the fact that sexual assault continues to occur evidences that nothing is being done, or the right things aren't being done," Ryan said.

And yet, Massage Envy corporate formed a Safety Council in the wake of a Buzzfeed investigation in 2017 that highlighted more than 180 sexual assaults in Massage Envy franchises across the country.

One of those victims was Danielle Dick, who was sexually assaulted in 2015 at the Massage Envy in Willow Lawn.

"I saw a lot of room for improvement kind of from start to finish," Dick said when we talked to her for a previous story in January about why massage therapists accused of assault are still allowed to touch clients.

She now works with Massage Envy and talked to us about the improvements the Safety Council has made.

But Ryan's client saw the story and reached out to CBS 6 because she claims those changes did not protect her.

"What I actually saw were just words without any action backed up behind them," she said. "No one from Massage Envy contacted me."

In fact, she claims the only call she received related to the incident was from a third-party company hired by Massage Envy.

"It was very unclear as to what that person's motives were, but she wanted me to go through the entire ordeal with her over the phone across the country with someone I've never met," the woman said.

So, she reached out to Henrico detectives for advice.

"They highly discouraged it because it is an open investigation and they didn't want to lessen the integrity of the investigation," she said.

On its Safety Council website, Massage Envy states that it created a list of third-party resources for franchises in their investigations of sexual assault claims.

But, Stewart Ryan and his client, said the move protects the company, not survivors.

"I sincerely hope that something positive will come out of this, and that this will maybe light a fire, and allow Massage Envy to realize that they need to be held accountable as well, and they need to make changes," Ryan's client said.

Massage Envy said it cannot comment on specific pending cases but told CBS 6 in a statement:

"We believe we have established best-in-class practices to address the types of issues alleged, with the help of the Massage Envy Safety Advisory Council."

Anthony Contino's trial is scheduled for April 29.

Wednesday night at 11, CBS 6’s investigation into sexual assaults by local massage therapists continues.

We will explain how a man indicted for raping a woman at a Massage Envy in Chesterfield in 2018 was never picked up by the police until we got involved, and why he still has an active license to practice massage in Virginia.