Woman alleges sexual assault at Massage Envy in Burlingame
BURLINGAME, Calif. - A woman is suing Massage Envy in Burlingame claiming she was sexually assaulted by a male massage therapist in 2017, and the spa failed to act to provide a safe environment for female customers.
Jane Epstein said her sexual assault was preventable because the owners knew they employed a therapist who assaulted another woman in 2013. Justin McKinnon continued to work as a therapist at the spa for years, the lawsuit alleges.
"He’s a predator," she said. "I’m not the only one. And how many women has he encountered since me?"
Epstein sat down with KTVU to share her story, using her real name and showing her face. She says it’s in hopes of empowering other women.
"You hear about these spas where it’s a happy ending for men, but I never, ever considered something could happen to me going in there," said Epstein. "I know what I experienced because I experienced it as a child, so I was able to replay it and say ‘Okay, that was sexual assault.’"
Unsuspecting, Epstein said she visited the franchise location in Burlingame in May 2017 and was assigned to McKinnon.
"I’ve always started face down and this person had me start face up. And I thought, well, that’s different," she said.
What happened next is laid out in the lawsuit filed last Wednesday in San Mateo County Superior Court. It claims McKinnon sexually assaulted Epstein by inappropriately exposing, groping and touching her intimate sexual parts.
"I kept thinking wait, did that just happen? Was that an accident? Oh, no, it’s happening again and again," said Epstein. "I went into freeze mode."
The attorney representing McKinnon said in a letter Sunday that his client denies all the allegations.
Epstein said she hid the experience from 2017 until she met another woman who told her a strikingly similar story. That woman introduced her to attorney Bobby Thompson.
"There are over 20 women who have been assaulted at the Massage Envy Burlingame that we know about," Thompson said.
He has sued Massage Envy before in 2017 and 2018. Those cases were settled out of court.
SEE ALSO: Fears loom that sexual assault cases involving Massage Envy will remain private
Thompson said one of the victims back then was sexually assaulted by McKinnon in 2013. But he said the owners of the spa in Burlingame allowed him to keep working for years.
"They did nothing about it," he said. "In fact, they paid lip service and claimed they fired him, and they didn’t. And he’s still employed there four years later, which allowed Ms. Epstein to be assaulted."
The owners of Massage Envy in Burlingame have not responded to KTVU's repeated requests for comment.
The lawsuit seeks civil damages for severe emotional distress and punitive damages for a disregard for Epstein’s safety. A response to the lawsuit has not yet been filed.
With a call for accountability and action, Epstein said she hopes other women will come forward if they’ve been sexually assaulted at the hands of a therapist at Massage Envy in Burlingame.
"I’m a different person than I was that day. I’m stronger," Epstein said. "I know what happened in that room. I know."
Brooks Jarosz is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Facebook and Twitter @BrooksKTVU