WASHINGTON - A D.C. woman is among more than 180 people who have accused Massage Envy employees of sexual assault.
Tara Woodley went public with her name on Monday after she said she was sexually assaulted by 24-year-old Habtamu Gebreslassie at the Massage Envy in Tenleytown back in September.
“Like them, I’m going to push away any fear, shame and embarrassment aside and be heard. My name is Tara Woodley and I’m releasing my status as Jane Doe,” Tara Woodley said. “I hope that by sharing my story and real name that I will encourage other women to speak out as all of us join together to help create change in our country and communities.”
Massage Envy, the nation’s largest massage franchise, said it was planning to “strengthen” its policies after a report published by Buzzfeed News on Sunday stated that scores of former clients had accused their employees of criminal behavior, including unwanted groping, fondling and sexual assault.
Franchisees and managers were also accused of mishandling or covering up incidents of alleged sexual misconduct. In a lawsuit filed by Woodley, she said Massage Envy knew it had a problem on its hands with Gebreslassie, who was accused of sexually assaulting a customer at their Bowie location.
But instead of firing Gebreslassie, the lawsuit states Massage Envy just transferred him to the Tenleytown location.
“It doesn’t just affect the victims, it affects their families, their friends, their co-workers and the magnitude of the amount of people who have been affected by this is greater than Massage Envy realizes or maybe even cares,” she said.
At least four women have accused Gebreslassie, who remains in custody, of sexual assault. One victim alleged he placed his tongue on her genitals, while another said he put his face close to her genitals and touched her beyond the bikini line against her will.
Massage Envy said Gebreslassie was fired after he was arrested in September. He was due back in court in December.
In a separate complaint, former customer Susan Ingram said she was assaulted in 2015 by a male masseur named James Deiter, who inserted his fingers in her vagina and pushed his erection against her body while she lay “frozen in fear” during a massage in Pennsylvania.
Ingram added that she later informed the manager about his behavior, only to be told that she was welcome to return to the massage parlor to discuss the incident. She opted instead to phone the police, and Deiter admitted to assaulting Ingram during questioning.
In a statement to Fox News, Massage Envy said that it is “heartbroken” over the news, but maintains that these incidents only account for a tiny fraction of the company’s millions of massages.
"Each of these incidents is heartbreaking for us and for the franchisees that operate Massage Envy locations, and we will never stop looking for ways to help our franchisees provide a safe environment at Massage Envy franchise locations,” said the company. “The article references 180 reported incidents. These occurred over a span of 15 plus years and 125 million massages. But, we believe that even ONE incident is too many, so we are constantly listening, learning, and evaluating how we can continue to strengthen our policies with respect to handling of these issues.”
FoxNews.com contributed to this report.