After facing multiple accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault, Russell Simmons announced on Thursday that he is stepping down from his various companies, including Def Jam Records, which he co-founded, and Rush Communications. The timing of Simmons’s departure follows a column in the Hollywood Reporter by screenwriter Jenny Lumet, in which she recounts a 1991 incident during which she says Simmons forced himself on her.
“I have been informed with great anguish of Jenny Lumet’s recollection about our night together in 1991,” Simmons said in a statement. “While her memory of that evening is very different from mine, it is now clear to me that her feelings of fear and intimidation are real. While I have never been violent, I have been thoughtless and insensitive in some of my relationships over many decades and I sincerely and humbly apologize.”
Lumet’s account, published on Thursday morning, is frightening. She writes that Simmons offered her a ride home but refused to take her to her apartment. Lumet said she asked his driver to go to her apartment, and Simmons said no — twice. The driver allegedly listened to Simmons, and dropped off Simmons and Lumet to Simmons’s apartment. Lumet was frightened and feared that if she didn’t comply, the situation might turn violent. She wrote:
You moved me into a bedroom. I said “Wait.” You said nothing.
I made the trade in my mind. I thought “just keep him calm and you’ll get home.” Maybe another person would have thought differently, or not made the trade.
It was dark, but not pitch dark. You closed the door.
At that point, I simply did what I was told.
There was penetration. At one point you were only semi-erect and appeared frustrated. Angry? I remember being afraid that you would deem that my fault and become violent. I did not know if you were angry, but I was afraid that you were.
Lumet’s allegation isn’t the only one Simmons is facing.
Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times published a report from Keri Claussen Khalighi, who says that Simmons sexually assaulted her in 1991, when she was 17 and working as a model. She also says that director-producer Brett Ratner — who himself has recently been accused of multiple incidents of sexual harassment and assault — was present during the incident:
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.”
Ratner, meanwhile, “just sat there and watched,” she said.
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 has flatly denied Khalighi’s allegations.
“Abusing women in any way shape or form violates the very core of my being.” Simmons said in a statement issued in response to the LA Times story. “More than anything, I want my daughters to live in a more equal world and a world where they will not become victims of sexual harassment.”