Massage chain sued after alleged sexual assault in DC

WASHINGTON — One of the women who says a massage therapist sexually abused her during a session in D.C. earlier this month is suing the chain of massage establishments that employed him.

Habtamu Gebreslassie, of Silver Spring, was arrested Sept. 17 and charged with first-degree sexual abuse of a patient or client and second-degree sexual abuse in connection with an incident that happened earlier that day at a Massage Envy location on Wisconsin Avenue in Northwest D.C.

Several days later, another woman came forward and accused Gebreslassie of trying to sexually assault her during a massage session in late August. He was charged Sept. 20 with attempted second-degree sexual assault.

The victim in the alleged Sept. 17 incident is suing Massage Envy, which had “full knowledge he had committed a prior sexual assault,” yet “negligently retained him as a massage therapist and then willfully, wantonly and recklessly allowed and arranged for him to come into contact with vulnerable unsuspecting female patrons for profit,” according to the lawsuit.

D.C. police said at the time that the second woman had told Massage Envy management about the alleged assault on Sept. 5 — 12 days before his arrest. Gebreslassie was fired from Massage Envy on Sept. 17 following his arrest.

In a statement, lawyers for the woman in the Sept. 17 alleged assault said that the purpose of the lawsuit “is to obtain compensation for the damages she has suffered and will continue to suffer, and, as importantly, to make sure that no other patron of a Massage Envy establishment ever experiences a sexual assault.”

Wayne Cohen, one of her lawyers, said in the statement, “It is imperative that the company, in all approximately 1,200 locations, implement proper screening, training, and supervision of its employees and contractors.”

The woman underwent rape testing and won’t know “for quite some time” whether she was exposed to a sexually transmitted disease, the statement said.

Gebreslassie is being held without bond. A third woman has since said he touched her inappropriately at Deluca Massage and Bodywork, on P Street in Northwest, in June.

Massage Envy said in a statement, “We do not comment on ongoing legal matters.”​​

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