Feb 14, 2024 2 min read

Russell Simmons sued over allegations of rape

A former employee at Def Jam has filed a lawsuit accusing the label’s founder Russell Simmons of rape. It relates to an incident in the 1990s, with the plaintiff relying on a New York City law that allows the filing of lawsuits that would usually be prohibited by the statute of limitations

Russell Simmons sued over allegations of rape

Def Jam founder Russell Simmons has been sued by a former employee of the label who accuses the record industry executive of rape. The assault allegedly took place at his New York home in the 1990s. 

In a new lawsuit filed with the New York courts, the plaintiff - an unnamed woman listed as Jane Doe - says her career in the music industry "was disrupted and derailed by a devastating experience at the hands" of the former Def Jam boss.

Her legal filing states “while pursuing her career and passion as a music executive”, she “was sexually harassed, assaulted, sexually battered, and raped by her boss, Russell Simmons, a rich and powerful celebrity whose wealth and influence allowed his abusive behaviour to go unchallenged for decades". 

A number of lawsuits were filed last year that accused artists and music industry executives of sexual abuse or assault, and which relied on New York State’s Adult Survivors Act

That allowed new legal action to be filed in relation to incidents that took place sufficiently long ago that lawsuits would usually be barred by the statute of limitations. The deadline for filing lawsuits under the act was 24 Nov 2023.

This new lawsuit actually mentions the New York Survivors Act, even though it has been filed after the deadline. However, it also cites New York City's Gender Motivated Violence Act, which similarly allows the filing of new lawsuits that would normally not be possible because of the statute of limitations.

New York law firm Hach & Rose LLP explains that this act "provides a civil remedy for victims of gender-motivated violence", providing the violent act "occurred within the five boroughs of New York City". An amendment to the law in 2022 lifted the statute of limitations providing lawsuits are filed by 28 Feb 2025. So further litigation could as yet be instigated over the next year. 

Expanding on the allegations against Simmons, the new lawsuit says that, in the mid-1990s while working for Def Jam, the plaintiff was required to go to his home in Manhattan where "he typically held meetings". 

"Initially, Mr Simmons began to 'wrestle' with Ms Doe in an attempt to appear playful”, it goes on. “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". 

Following the assault, "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 ultimately quit the label and the music business, subsequently moving to California and pursuing a career in the film industry. 

This is by no means the first allegation of sexual assault that has been made against Simmons. Indeed, one of the lawsuits filed under the New York Survivors Act included allegations against Simmons, even though he wasn't the defendant. The new lawsuit states, "Ms Doe’s shocking experience at the hands of Mr Simmons is unfortunately just one of many. Over 20 women have accused Mr Simmons of sexual harassment or assault". 

The plaintiff in the case is seeking "general, punitive and economic damages for loss of employment, loss of business opportunities, loss of wages, and to compensate Ms Doe for injuries suffered as a result of the unlawful conduct alleged herein". 

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