Jenny Lumet, the granddaughter of legend Lena Horne and daughter of famed director Sidney Lumet, says she was brutally raped by music mogul and social activist Russell Simmons. She joins another woman who alleges that Simmons and and producer Brett Ratner assaulted her (previously reported on JazTalk). Simmons denied her accusations.
Simmons announced that he is stepping down from his businesses, in response to Lumet’s allegations and HBO has removed his name from “All Def Comedy”, a series his company produced hosted by Tony Rock.
It takes great courage for sexual assault survivors (I don’t say victims) to overcome the shame and embarrassment to come forward. I commend Lumet’s bravery. Of course, I can’t say whether her allegations are true or not. They have not been investigated but my tendency is to believe the women particularly when there is more than one that speaks out.
Lumet claims that the incident happened back in 1991. She says that she knew him before the alleged incident and the pair had run in the same social circles. She says that in the past, Simmons had expressed his interest in her and had even sent balloons to her home one time. Prior to the alleged incident, she says that she never felt threatened by him. Lumet wrote an editorial recounting the evening when she says he forced himself on her. You can read her story in her own words below.
One night circa 1991, when I was around 24, I was at a restaurant called Indochine. I had worked there when I was 17, as the coat check girl, and I enjoyed returning. I still knew some of the staff at this point, and felt quite comfortable there. I remember I was wearing one of the Azzedine Alaia tops that were everywhere that year. And hoop earrings. I think it was cool enough for a jacket. Because I remember being glad I had a jacket by the end of that night.
You had a car and a driver that evening. 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.
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.”
I believe it was an SUV, because I recall having to step up into the car. I don’t know about makes or models. I think the driver was already in the car.
I got into the car with you. The driver began to drive. I assumed you knew where I lived, because you had sent me 250 balloons, but I gave the driver my address on 19th Street and 2nd Avenue.
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.
I couldn’t open the doors. I couldn’t open the windows. The car was moving. The driver did not stop. He did not take me to 19th Street. He took me to your apartment.
I didn’t try to kick the windows out. I didn’t punch or kick. I didn’t say “What are you doing?” My voice left me after the second “No”.
I felt dread and disorientation. I wanted to go home. I said I wanted to go home. I didn’t recognize the man next to me. I didn’t know if the situation would turn violent. I remember thinking that I must be crazy; I remember hoping that the Russell I knew would return any moment.
The car stopped at the curb. I don’t recall the street. I recall the driver opening the door from the outside, and you behind me. I was between the two of you. Not wedged, just in the space between you. I remember exchanging a look with the driver. He was unreadable. It was chilly out. It was me and these two men.
I felt dread. I was tremulous. Off my feet. I felt an intense need to keep both of you calm. Was there a time or a space to run? I have no idea. Would somebody else have run? I have no idea. There were two men. One of whom obeyed the other. It was an overwhelming feeling.
There was no well-lit lobby or doorman at the entrance we used. I would guess it was not the main entrance to the building. I believe there was a door from street level that opened into a space beneath the residential area of the building, in which there was a small, back elevator. If I am wrong about the layout, then I am wrong. There were two men, and I was afraid.
You didn’t punch me, drag me or verbally threaten me. You used your size to maneuver me, quickly, into the elevator. I said “Wait. Wait.” I felt dread. I was very, very sad. I didn’t know if the driver was a further threat, or an ally. I was both relieved and terrified when he did not get into the elevator. Alone in the elevator, you pressed me into the corner with your body, your hands and your mouth.
The elevator did not stop on the way up to your apartment. I was moved very quickly inside. I recall hearing the apartment door closing behind us.
I saw no one else. I recall you were behind me. I was still hoping the Russell I knew would reappear, as I could not recognize the man moving me deeper into the apartment — the man who had said “No” to his driver. Twice.
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.
I desperately wanted to keep the situation from escalating. 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.
When it was over, I got my clothes and quickly went down in the elevator by myself. You didn’t try to stop me. I went home in a taxi. I was grateful to be secure in my home.
Do you believe her account of what she says happened? How do we change men in power feeling empowered to victimize others. Let me know what you think.
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