The attorneys of Cohen & Cohen are proud to represent Tara Woodley, a courageous woman who is taking a stand against the massage chain Massage Envy after a horrific incident of assault.
Tara Woodley filed a lawsuit against Massage Envy after she was sexually assaulted by one of the employees on Sept. 17, 2017. In the lawsuit, she claimed that the employee lifted the sheet covering her lower torso and put his tongue on her genitals.
After Woodley covered herself back up, she said the licensed massage therapist Habtamu Gebreselassie told her he had never done this before and begged her to keep it a secret. After he left the room, Woodley put her clothes back on and informed her husband of what just happened.
“It is almost impossible for me to find the right words to express how violated I felt and how scared I was,” Woodley said.
Tara Woodley called the police and Gebreselassie was arrested. It turns out that Woodley wasn’t the first woman he sexually assaulted. Three other women alleged that Gebreselassie touched them while giving them massages.
“Basically, every month, he was targeting somebody, and I was September. So, I thank God that it happened to me, that my husband encouraged me to call the police, and that it won’t happen to a November woman or December woman,” Woodley said.
In the beginning, Tara Woodley wanted to remain anonymous in the Massage Envy lawsuit. However, she decided to speak publicly about her experience after Buzzfeed reported that more than 180 people have filed lawsuits, police reports and state board complaints against Massage Envy Spas. Though this was an extremely difficult decision to make, Woodley stood her ground and did what she thought was right. Cohen & Cohen, is proud to stand alongside her.
Woodley said she shed her Jane Doe status because she felt inspired by women who filed sexual harassment and assault lawsuits against politicians, Hollywood actors and other high-profile individuals. Her goal is raise awareness of this issue and hold companies accountable for their employees’ actions.
Woodley’s attorney, Kim Brooks-Rodney of Cohen & Cohen, said the lawsuit filed against the Massage Envy Washington DC location aims to improve the safety of day spas. She added that no woman should have to worry about getting sexually assaulted while getting a massage.
Although Massage Envy denied to comment about the case against Gebreselassie, the company did release a statement about the Buzzfeed report:
“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.”
Tara Woodley wasn’t convinced that Massage Envy’s statement was sincere. She told HLN that the company’s actions do not reflect a zero tolerance against sexual assault and they will say anything to protect themselves. Woodley added that what happened to her can’t be taken back and Massage Envy did not handle the incident well.
Although she is upset over Gebreselassie’s actions, Tara Woodley said she still has compassion for him and hopes that he can become a good citizen again.