A New York City woman has sued the wellness app Soothe, claiming she was raped by a masseur who was sent to her home — and she wasn’t the massage therapist’s first sexual assault victim, her lawyer said.
The woman, identified as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, which was filed Monday, was given a massage on the Soothe app as a Valentine’s Day present on Feb. 14 by her husband, who was out of town.
The app offers on-demand, at-home massages and beauty services.
When the massage therapist, alleged to be operating under the fake name “Hernando Giraldo,” arrived at her Brooklyn home, he “sexually assaulted and raped” Doe and fled, according to the complaint.
He is still at large, according to the lawsuit.
“I’ve been traumatized by this event. Since he knows where I live, I have the fear of this monster returning to my home,” Doe said in a recorded video statement shared by her lawyer, with her face blurred.
“I’ve entered therapy on my own dime and wake up a million times at night at the slightest sound, this fear of another attack,” she added.
The suit was filed in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn against Soothe Inc., which is based in California, and Evident ID, based in Georgia, which conducts criminal background checks and identity verification for the app service. Supreme Court is the name of New York's main trial court.
The complaint accuses both companies of negligence and negligent hiring, retention and supervision of their employees, resulting in a failure to protect customer safety.
The masseur was a “sexual predator” who “had been previously arrested for sexually assaulting another female Soothe customer,” the lawsuit said. Doe's attorney, Nathan Werksman, said the information came from the New York City Police Department.
Police said they couldn’t comment on that allegation, given that Werksman knew little about the incident, including the suspect’s real name or where the assault is alleged to have happened.
Werksman said that police told him they know Giraldo’s real identity but that it hasn’t been shared with him or his client.
The lawsuit says that Evident ID and Soothe should have known that Giraldo wasn’t the masseur’s real name, that they should have known he previously sexually assaulted a female Soothe customer and was arrested, and that they were responsible for keeping customers safe from sexual assault and rape.
Doe suffered “serious personal injuries, emotional distress, mental pain and suffering,” and she is seeking unspecified damages, according to the complaint.
New York police confirmed that a complaint report for rape was filed Feb. 14 in the 81st Precinct, which serves the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in northern Brooklyn.
No arrests have been made, and the investigation continues, police said.
In the investigation of Doe’s allegations, DNA evidence was collected from a scarf the attacker left at the scene, Werksman said, citing police. He said investigators told him they searched for the man in different locations in New York but were unable to locate him.
Doe said she’s considered moving out of her home, “upending my life just to flee my grasp of this predator Soothe sent to my doorstep.”
Doe said in her video statement that she and her husband reported the incident to Soothe but didn’t hear back until they contacted the company’s CEO on LinkedIn.
“Soothe provided us with a fake name, an alias for an individual police believe has a prior record for committing this same exact horrendous crime,” she said.
“I filed a lawsuit to stand up as a survivor of sexual assault and to seek justice for the way my life has been destroyed by the negligence of Soothe and others,” she said.
Soothe provides services in dozens of cities. Its website says that all providers are fully licensed and certified and that their backgrounds are checked with ongoing criminal monitoring.
Soothe announced a partnership with Evident ID in August 2020 for credential verification and background check services.
Soothe Inc. said in a statement, “Our number one priority is the safety of our clients, and we take this allegation very seriously.
“We have a zero-tolerance policy regarding any and all harm to our clients or providers who use our platform. We work diligently to ensure all independent contractor therapists using our app are vigorously reviewed to ensure they meet our safety and licensing standards. We are actively working with authorities on this ongoing investigation," the statement said.
Evident ID didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Werksman is demanding to know how the alleged perpetrator ended up on the platform and was allowed to remain on it.
“Our client wants to recover for the horrific trauma of being sexually assaulted and raped in her own home and to ensure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen to any other Soothe customers,” he said.
Soothe and Evident ID haven’t commented to Doe or her legal representation about the allegation of a previous rape incident, Werksman said. Soothe and Evident ID haven’t filed responses to the lawsuit yet.