Russell Simmons accused of rape in new lawsuit

It’s not the first time Mr Simmons has been accused of sexual harassment or abuse

Michelle Del Rey
Wednesday 14 February 2024 18:31 GMT
Def Jam boss Russell Simmons is facing a civil complaint over an alleged rape in the 1990s
Def Jam boss Russell Simmons is facing a civil complaint over an alleged rape in the 1990s (Getty)

Russell Simmons, the co-founder of record company Def Jam Recordings, is being sued by a woman who worked with him at the company over claims that he raped her.

The woman identified herself only as Jane Doe in a civil complaint filed on Tuesday in the Southern District of New York.

In the 1990s, she took on a job as an executive at the music label, which involved being responsible for all film production. At this time, she began a professional relationship with Mr Simmons and is accusing the co-founder of assaulting her at his New York City apartment, the complaint alleges.

Kenya Davis, an attorney for the woman, told USA Today, “As detailed in the complaint, our client was sexually assaulted and harassed by her boss, Russell Simmons, while pursuing her professional ambitions as an executive at Def Jam.”

She continued to say her client was proud of her contributions to hip-hop, but her career was disrupted by Mr Simmons’ alleged behaviour.

“Now a successful writer and producer in the entertainment industry, Jane Doe’s traumatic experiences with Simmons echo those of so many other women who he has preyed upon for decades.”

Mr Simmons has faced previous allegations of abuse and harassment. In 2020, a documentary called On the Record was released documenting the alleged abuse multiple women experienced with him.

In the latest complaint, the woman said Mr Simmons did not start off being flirtatious with her and maintained a professional relationship. She routinely went to Mr Simmons’ apartment to conduct business, as was normal at the time for all label employees.

“It was a very casual environment for everyone,” the complaint states.

Shortly before the alleged assault, Mr Simmons frequently went to Ms Doe’s office at Def Jam’s headquarters.

“He would sit on her desk, lean over her,” the complaint states. “Aggressively invading her personal space while making sexual innuendos, suggestions, and advances, and rubbing the front of his pants.”

His behaviour became so apparent and allegedly inappropriate that one time another senior executive went to the woman’s office, banged on the door and yelled at Mr Simmons to leave when he discovered he was in the building.

On the day of the alleged assault, the woman delivered a rough cut of a video to Mr Simmons’ apartment. He began allegedly flirting with the woman and making sexual advances, including asking whether she was wearing a bra.

The complaint states that Mr Simmons proceeded to ask the woman if she would have sex with him. She said she would not. Mr Simmons continued to push the subject, according to the records. He performed a “wrestling move”, pinned the woman down and raped her, the documents state.

The woman left the label in 1997, after the incident happened. She did not tell anyone about the alleged abuse for weeks and experienced severe dissociation, depression and anxiety.

In the years since the alleged rape, she has struggled with an eating disorder, panic attacks and maintaining her career, the complaint states.

The Independent has reached out to Mr Simmons management team for comment.

The lawsuit was filed under New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which gave survivors of abuse the ability to sue their alleged assailants under a one-year lookback window. However, that law expired in November and it’s not clear how it will be applied in that case.

The woman is seeking a jury trial and for the amount of damages to be determined in court.

“As a direct and proximate result of the aforementioned gender-motivated violence, Ms Doe has sustained in the past and will continue to sustain, monetary damages, physical injury, pain and suffering, and serious psychological and emotional distress, entitling her to an award of compensatory damages” the complaint reads.

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