A woman who said she was assaulted at a Massage Envy location in Northwest D.C. filed a $25 million lawsuit on Tuesday against the company and the massage therapist who she said attacked her.
The alleged victim, a married woman in her 20s who is not identified in the suit, said the franchise owners never should have hired the alleged attacker, Habtamu Gebreselassie, 24, and that they knew he previously had been accused of assaulting women.
"Why not fire him?" asked one of the woman's lawyers, Kim Brooks-Rodney. "Why put him in a position where he can sexually assault someone else?"
Massage Envy's corporate headquarters declined to comment on the suit. They previously said they are looking into whether the franchise owner followed proper procedures after first learning that a customer had accused Gebreselassie of misconduct.
The suit said Gebreselassie removed a sheet that was covering the woman and made inappropriate oral sexual contact toward the end of her 90-minute massage on Sept. 17 at Massage Envy's location in the Tenleytown neighborhood.
The woman immediately pulled the sheet back up to cover herself and told Gebreselassie to leave.
"We're done here. We're done here," she repeated, raising her voice.
The woman was taken to a hospital and given medicine to combat potential sexually transmitted infections. It's not immediately known if she did contract any infections from the attack.
"She still has a long way to go before she finds out whether she contracted one, so obviously, that's distressing to anybody," Brooks-Rodney said.
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Gebreselassie was accused in four reports of sexual misconduct at three different locations: The Massage Envy in Tenleytown, at a Massage Envy in Bowie, Maryland, and at an unaffiliated massage parlor on the 2000 block of P Street NW in D.C.
Three other women said Gebreselassie attacked them in a similar way to what the suit filed Tuesday described.
The woman who filed the suit is seeking $25 million from Massage Envy, the franchise owners and Gebreselassie. She is represented by Cohen & Cohen, P.C., Kim Brooks Rodney and Adam Leighton.
“She will continue to suffer such pain and suffering for the rest of her life, and she will continue to incur medical, therapeutic, lost wages and related expenses,” the woman’s lawyers said in the suit.