by G. Brown
A new week, new sexual assaults names to add to the growing list of women who say powerful men in Hollywood fondled, groped or raped them. Now the scandal has collided with the world of hip hop.
A woman claims she was only 17 years old and looking to break into show business when she met Russell Simmons at a casting call. Keri Claussen Khalighi describes pretty much being straight off the Nebraska farm and landing what she probably thought a lucky break when she got to dine with Simmons of Def Jam Records fame and movie director Brett Ratner.
The LA Times describes what she alleges happened that night in an article that says, “They took Khalighi to dinner one night in 1991 at Mr. Chow in New York, and then back to Simmons’ apartment to show her a music video they’d been working on.Quickly, Simmons began making aggressive sexual advances, yanking off her clothes, Khalighi said.I looked over at Brett and said ‘help me’ and I’ll never forget the look on his face,” she recalled. “In that moment, the realization fell on me that they were in it together…”
The article continues, “Khalighi said that Simmons, who was then about twice her age, tried to force her to have intercourse. “I fought it wildly,” she said. He eventually relented and coerced her to perform oral sex, she alleged. “I guess I just acquiesced. Feeling “disgusting,” Khalighi said she went to take a shower. Minutes later, she alleged, Simmons walked up behind her in the shower and briefly penetrated her without her consent. She said she jerked away, then he left. “It hurt so much.”
Simmons doesn’t deny the encounter but tells a different version of the story saying in a released statement, “I completely and unequivocally deny the horrendous allegations of non-consensual sex against me with every fiber of my being…Everything that happened between us 26 years ago was completely consensual and with Keri’s full participation.”
Simmons says they spent time in his apartment over a two day period as well as visited several public places including a nightclub. He says he is “saddened” and “shocked” by the assertions. Simmons continued saying “Let me be crystal clear and very direct. Abusing women in any way shape or form violates the very core of my being…More than anything, I want my daughters to lie in a more equal world and a world where they will not become victims of sexual harassment.”
Simmons is not dodging the issue like some of those who have been accused, but his directness in that denial prompts a question that underscores previous and most certainly future accusations against men…are all of these accusations truly sexual assault?
A British singer got into hot water this weekend defending the accused saying that some of the women are making up these stories of being victimized to hide their own shame over their behavior. The problem with his logic is if the women didn’t speak up to say they were victims, then what would they have to be ashamed of…they could have remained silent. Sure some women might risk lying for 15 minutes of fame or gambling there’s a payday down the road, but why assume all the women or any women are all liars?
Simmons story is different in that he doesn’t deny knowing his accuser or that they engaged in some kind of intimate acts, but we still end up with a quintessential “he said-she said”. And unless some of these cases end up before a judge, how will we know who to believe?
An even bigger question at the end of these sex scandals is where are all the allegations and outing of alleged sex predators taking us? Will the pronouncements change laws, change business procedures and protocols or change culture?