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A Screenwriter Says Russell Simmons Sexually Assaulted Her In The ’90s

On November 19th, the Los Angeles Times published a story in which Keri Claussen Khalighi, a fashion model, detailed an encounter with the founder of hip-hop music label Def Jam Recordings and CEO of Rush Communications Russell Simmons. According to Khalighi, Simmons sexually assaulted her in his apartment in 1991, which triggered a letter in response from Simmons, disputing the accusation. Now, due to the explosion of the sexual misconduct in Hollywood brought to light and a particular phrase penned in Simmons’ letter, another woman is stepping forward to share her story—and the details are absolutely chilling. 

Screenwriter Jenny Lumet detailed in a letter published by the Hollywood Reporter the terrifying encounter she experienced at the hands of Simmons, also in 1991. Having known the music producer for several years and even worked with him in a film, she described him as “charming and funny and charismatic and self-deprecating,” someone she could relax around—despite his light-hearted attempts to pursue her prior to the assault. However, on that night in 1991, her friendly relationship with Simmons took a very dark turn. 

“You had a car and a driver that evening,” Lumet recalls from that night out at a restaurant. “Sometime later, you offered me a ride to my home. I said, ‘Sure.’ During the making of the RUN DMC movie, I had been in vans with you and other crew members. I don’t recall having accepted a ride home alone with you before that night.”

Lumet then makes it very clear that she had no other intention than to return to her home, alone.

“At no time that night did I say: ‘Russell, I will go home with you,’ or ‘Come home with me,’ or ‘I will have sex with you’ or ‘I have the desire to have sex with you.'” 

She told the driver her address, but what Simmons said next will leave your stomach in knots. 

“You said to the driver: ‘No.’ I didn’t understand, so I said: ‘Russell?’ I said, again, to the driver: ’19th Street.’ Again you said to the driver: ‘No.’ Then the car doors locked. It was loud. The noise made me jump. I didn’t recognize you at that moment. It was disorienting. It was disorienting. I say it twice now because you said ‘No’ twice then.”

The driver had brought Lumet to Simmons’ apartment.  Full of dread and feeling disoriented, Lumet explains that all she wanted to do was to return home, but at the same time wanted to keep Simmons and the driver calm. Overwhelmed and afraid of the two men before her, she was maneuvered into an elevator up to his apartment, where she was sexually assaulted.

“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.” she writes. Then, Lumet recalls the point of no return. 

“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.”

“I desperately wanted to keep the situation from escalating,” she continues. “I wanted you to feel that I was not going to be difficult. I wanted to stay as contained as I could. You told me to turn over on my stomach. You said something about a part of my body. You did not ejaculate inside me.”

Lumet then quickly grabbed her clothes and returned home that same night in a taxi.

“I never told anyone this story until October 27 of this year (after the Harvey Weinstein story was in the news but weeks before the first public claims were made against you), when I told a girlfriend from childhood.”

Like many victims of sexual assault, Lumet acknowledges that her public recollection of this story will cost her work, a reason why many don’t step forward in the first place. She heartbreakingly acknowledges her privilege to be able to take that risk, but also the privilege she lacks in a different sense. 

“There is so much guilt, and so much shame,” she writes. “There is an excruciating internal reckoning. As a woman of color, I cannot express how wrenching it is to write this about a successful man of color. Again, shame about who I was years ago, choices made years ago.”

She brings the letter to a close with one last thought directed toward Simmons. “In this very moment, I feel a pang to protect your daughters. I don’t think you are inclined to protect mine.”

Simmons has since then responded to Lumet’s story and stepped down from his positions. “I will step aside and commit myself to continuing my personal growth, spiritual learning and above all to listening,” Simmons said in a statement, according to the Hollywood Reporter. 

Amanda graduated from Carthage College with a Bachelor's degree in both Communications and Public Relations. She also proudly served as the Editor in Chief of her college's Her Campus chapter, and as a Her Campus Editorial Intern. She is from Chicago, Illinois, which she can confirm is indeed a windy city. Today she can still be found furiously tapping away at her laptop keys and producing content for the internet. In her spare time she enjoys reading books (before watching their Netflix or movie adaptions), running for fun (yes, it can be fun) and spending time with her friends and family.
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