Local massage therapists react to nationwide sexual assault allegations

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

Violations on the massage table are leading to a nationwide conversation about massage therapists and the industry. The franchise Massage Envy Spa is finding itself embattled with sexual assault claims on behalf of it's employees.

Those national headlines have raised questions about the safety and screening for the people working in the massage industry. In Kansas, the state doesn't regulate massage businesses, it's up to each city. The city of Wichita requires a massage business owner to become licensed and each employee must go through training every two years.

Massage is supposed to be a time of relaxation and it takes a lot of trust between the client and massage therapist. That's why Wichita area massage therapists are angry that some of their industry counterparts have allegedly abused that trust.

"How do you bounce back from that? It's a shame that stuff like this has to happen,"massage therapist, Adam Leonhart said.

This week, sexual assault victims have emerged, sharing their horror stories of what happened during their time at Massage Envy Spa franchises around the country. The 180 allegations from the last 15 years range from improper groping to rape.

Wichita has two locations, and a manager says no one has ever filed a sexual assault complaint or lawsuit at either location.

But former Wichita Massage Envy manager, Karen Lilly, said these revelations should be a wake up call to the franchise and the industry as a whole.

"There's numerous companies across the country that hire on large scale and it's absolutely their responsibility to have sexual misconduct throughout all of their policies," Lilly said.

A Massage Envy spokesperson sent us a statement expressing heartbreak for each victim. The company says since 2014 it's revamped it's sexual assault training saying "we have a clear incident reporting process". The company stated it encourages its customers to report anything questionable to police. 

"I'm a guy in the massage therapy world. That can already have a stigma if I'm not careful," Leonhart said.

Leonhart has built his clientele off referrals, to try to cut out any sort of assault allegation.

Kelly Chapin puts her employees at Bohemia Healing Spa through background checks. Both are glad this is being talked about, and hope the industry as a whole continues to change.

"I hope that it has a positive effect, that it can create more regulations and background checks for schools," Chapin said.

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