Opinion: Diddy’s apology to Cassie Ventura rings hollow

Editor’s Note: Jill Filipovic is a journalist based in New York and author of the book “OK Boomer, Let’s Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind.” Follow her on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely her own. View more opinion on CNN. This article has been updated to reflect the latest news.

Last year, singer Cassie Ventura (who goes by “Cassie”) settled a lawsuit with Sean “Diddy” Combs after she accused him of years of physical abuse, including rape and being forced into sex with male sex workers.

Jill Filipovic. - Courtesy Jill Filipovic
Jill Filipovic. - Courtesy Jill Filipovic

After the settlement, his lawyers were clear that Combs was innocent. “A decision to settle a lawsuit, especially in 2023, is in no way an admission of wrongdoing,” Ben Brafman, an attorney for Combs, told CNN in a statement in November. “Mr. Combs‘ decision to settle the lawsuit does not in any way undermine his flat-out denial of the claims. He is happy they got to a mutual settlement and wishes Ms. Ventura the best.”

Well, now there’s a video. And in the face of that incontrovertible evidence, Combs has finally publicly apologized.

“It’s so difficult to reflect on the darkest times in your life, but sometimes you got to do that,” he said in a video statement posted to Instagram. “I was f–ked up — I hit rock bottom — but I make no excuses. My behavior on that video is inexcusable.”

Combs added: “I take full responsibility for my actions in that video. I am disgusted. I was disgusted then when I did it. I’m disgusted now.”

Here’s the thing, though: Combs had the opportunity to take full responsibility last year, when Cassie filed her claim. But he took no responsibility and instead accused her of blackmail.

Five other lawsuits were filed against Combs since November, with accusations ranging from sexual abuse to sex trafficking, revenge porn and gang rape. Combs and his lawyers replied to all of the allegations with denials such as “a witch hunt” to “a money grab” to “individuals looking for a quick payday” to “baseless” to “a transparent attempt to garner headlines” to “complete lies.”

In December, Combs posted to Instagram: “Enough is enough. For the last couple of weeks, I have sat silently and watched people try to assassinate my character, destroy my reputation and my legacy,” he said. “Sickening allegations have been made against me by individuals looking for a quick payday. Let me be absolutely clear: I did not do any of the awful things being alleged. I will fight for my name, my family and for the truth.”

Now, at least part of the truth has come out, and Combs is singing a very different tune. After months not only of denial but of smearing his various accusers of being money-grubbing liars, he is admitting that at least one accuser told the truth.

Which does make one wonder: Would he have ever admitted it if there wasn’t a video? If not, how sorry can he truly be? And how many abusers adopt the Combs playbook of denying responsibility, and painting accusers with legitimate accusations as greedy fabulists?

The video of a horrific assault on Cassie comes as the US faces big funding cuts for domestic violence fundssheltersvictims’ services and other support systems, and as the US Supreme Court is reviewing a case that asks whether people under domestic violence restraining orders should be legally allowed to have guns. More than a third of women who were murdered in 2021 were killed by an intimate partner (for men, that number is just 6%).

In the best-case scenario, the vindication of Cassie’s abuse claims may help other victims come forward. Combs’ repeated and vociferous disavowals and his smearing of his accusers may serve as a crucial reminder that while not all accusations of wrongdoing are true, neither are many denials of the same.

In the American criminal law system, the accused are rightly presumed innocent until proven guilty. But in the court of public opinion a different calculus applies: As each of us, as individuals, are considering accusations of abuse or other serious wrongdoing, the word of a man shouldn’t automatically outweigh that of a woman just because he’s wealthier or more prominent — or just because he’s a man.

But it can’t be easy for Cassie to see what must be one of the worst moments of her life broadcast worldwide. And it may take other women who have survived abuse back to a dark emotional place.

No one should have to see a video like that to believe what women say — after all, the overwhelming majority of domestic violence incidents are not caught on camera, happening as they do at the hands of an intimate partner and often in the privacy of the home.

Hopefully, though, this case is an instructive one. Denials are not always true. Even powerful men with much to lose may still behave badly. And while it’s good when those who hurt others take responsibility and admit wrongdoing, those admissions ring quite hollow when they only come after getting caught.

Resources for victims of domestic violence

National Domestic Violence Hotline Call 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522. Available 24/7. Can connect callers with local resources and immediate support. Also available through online chat tool.

Getting help around the world. If you, or someone you know, is being affected by domestic violence, a worldwide list of directories is provided by UN Women. You can also find a list of national agencies on The Pixel Project.

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