A former senior executive at Def Jam Recordings is suing the label’s co-founder Russell Simmons, alleging he raped her in 1997 and that was sexually harassed, assaulted and battered during their time working together.
The plaintiff identified only as Jane Doe claims her “career in the music industry was disrupted and derailed by a devastating experience at the hands of Mr. Simmons.” The lawsuit filed today in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (read it here) labels the mogul “a rich and powerful celebrity whose wealth and influence allowed his abusive behavior to go unchallenged for decades.”
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“While at first Mr. Simmons and Ms. Doe had a professional working relationship, Mr. Simmons revealed his true colors and, through his assaultive behavior, disabled Ms. Doe’s career at Def Jam, a job she loved, at the height of her success and financial viability,” reads the 18-page complaint. “One day, Ms. Doe was required to visit Mr. Simmons’s apartment, located in Manhattan, New York, in the Southern District of New York, where he typically held meetings, to have him review a new video for approval. Initially, Mr. Simmons began to “wrestle” with Ms. Doe in an attempt to appear playful. The situation escalated into aggression and Mr. Simmons pinned Ms. Doe down on a bed. Ms. Doe repeatedly told Mr. Simmons to get off of her, but he refused. Mr. Simmons proceeded to rape her.”
As a result, the suit alleges: “Ms. Doe was wrought with distress. At the peak of her career success at Def Jam, making award-winning videos for their biggest artists, she experienced overwhelming anxiety, shame, humiliation and debilitating low self-esteem. She suffered frequent panic attacks, struggling to go to the Def Jam offices or to function in her leadership role. She tried to continue to work at Def Jam, but just a short time after the assault, to the surprise of peers and colleagues, she gave notice, quit the job she loved, and moved across the country to California.”
The lawsuit is the latest allegation of sexual misconduct against Simmons. Aspiring filmmaker Jennifer Jarosik sued the exec for $5 million in 2018, claiming he attacked and raped two years earlier. Before that suit’s filing, former model Keri Claussen Khalighi accused Simmons in 2017 of forcing her to engage in sex when she was 17 and also implicated filmmaker Brett Ratner. Simmons also was accused of sexual abuse by Jenny Lumet, daughter of director Sidney Lumet.
Later that year, as the #MeToo movement implicated a number of high-profile men in the entertainment industry, Simmons was accused of rape by four other women between 1983 and 2014. The Lumet and Claussen Khalighi cases date to 1991.
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