A woman who accused Hollywood director Brett Ratner of rape has said that the director is trying to silence her — and send a message to his other accusers — by suing her for defamation.
“When everything feels like it’s stacked against you, I want women to have the courage to speak out anyway,” Melanie Kohler told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. “I have so much respect for these women who are coming forward and sharing these humiliating things that happened to them.”
“It’s not something that you ever want to tell anybody,” she added. “It makes people look at you differently. Or at least, that’s the way it has been. I’m hoping that the culture is changing.”
Last month, Kohler had spoken out about an alleged rape she suffered at the hands of Ratner about 12 years ago after she met the director at a club. Kohler said she never came forward about the assault because she didn’t believe “anyone would be willing to go up against someone so powerful,” and because she didn’t want to acknowledge to herself that it happened.
“By saying it out loud, it made it more real,” she told ABC News. “I just bottled it up and tried to never think about it again.
Kohler’s fears of retaliation by the director were realized just an hour and half after her Facebook post, when she got a call from Ratner’s attorney threatening to sue her for defamation. Kohler removed the post, but Ratner filed a suit against her anyway last week — an action that Kohler’s lawyer suggested was meant to send a message to the six women, including actresses Olivia Munn and Natasha Henstridge, who had since come forward with their own accusations of sexual harassment and assault against Ratner.
“We’re here to send a very strong message that it’s not going to stop Melanie from speaking,” said Kohler’s lawyer, Robbie Kaplan. “And it’s not going to stop other women from speaking.”
Watch Kohler’s interview with ABC News below.
Read the full story at ABC News.
Tatyana Felgenhauer, the Russian radio journalist and Vladimir Putin critic who barely survived being stabbed in the neck last month, has told The Associated Press that she’s not convinced by the state’s claim that her attacker was insane. Authorities said Boris Grits, 48, attacked Felgenhauer as she came out of a morning news meeting on the 14th floor of the Echo of Moscow radio station, and after he evaded a security guard on the first floor by spraying him with gas. Moscow police have released video of Grits telling investigators that he was in “telepathic contact with Felgenhauer” and that the journalist had been “haunting him.” But the carefully planned nature of the attack Felgenhauer suggested, contradicted the police’s account.
“I’m confident that he is sane, he had planned it very carefully,” she said, wearing a scarf around her neck to hide her wounds. “He struck with determination.”
The Echo of Moscow’s editor-in-chief, Alexei Venediktov, went further.
“There are several weird elements in this case … that testify to the fact that he knew something that he won’t speak about … and that he had accomplices,” said Venediktov, who noted that the station had logged an “abnormal” number of threats to Felgenhauer following claims on state TV that the journalist had been paid by the U.S. to “[destabilize] society.”
“If we talk about Putin’s Russia,” he added, “so many people have been killed, maimed, attacked and threatened. But that’s not the main problem: the problem is these attacks go uninvestigated. The problem is that the justice system is sloppy about treating attacks on journalists.”
In recent years, a number of other journalists at Echo of Moscow have been attacked — including Yulia Latynina, who was forced to flee the country just two months ago.
Read the full story at The Associated Press.
A New Jersey woman who decided to run for office for the first time after John Carman, a local Republican politician, joked that the Women’s March would interfere with women cooking dinner, unseated Carman in spectacular fashion on Tuesday. Ashley Bennett, 32, a psychiatric emergency screener at the crisis department at Cape Regional Hospital, was one of dozens of women who showed up at a January freeholder meeting for the Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders, a county legislative body in New Jersey, to protest Carman’s remarks. At the meeting, Carman reportedly refused to apologize, claiming that “strong, confident women … didn’t get offended by this.” Bennett, along with a number of other women, walked out on the meeting in disgust at Carman’s comments.
Bennett then became one of a growing number of women to seek office since Donald Trump’s election, culminating in her victory over Carman, who had further alienated constituents by publicly wearing a confederate flag patch.
“People want change,” Bennett told Philly.com after her unlikely win. “I am beyond speechless and incredibly grateful to serve my community. I never imagined I would run for office.”
Three female former aides to U.S. Representative Brenda Lawrence, a Democrat from Michigan, who recently introduced a bill to require congressional staffers to take a course on sexual harassment, have claimed that they endured sexual harassment from Lawrence’s own chief of staff.
The ex-staffers told POLITICO that they had told Lawrence that her chief of staff, Dwayne Duron Marshall, had treated women in the office differently than men and had made them uncomfortable. All three women, who remained anonymous out of fear of retaliation, said they cited Marshall as a reason for leaving Lawrence’s office. Lawrence has denied any knowledge of sexual harassment in her office, and asked that the former aides come forward to speak to her about their experiences. Marshall, who has since been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation following the publishing of the POLITICO story on Tuesday, has denied the accusations as “slanderous.”
The former aides alleged that Marshall regularly commented on women’s physical looks, including shaming them for not wearing makeup or high heels. Marshall also allegedly asked inappropriate questions about their dating lives, and engaged in unwanted physical contact such as impromptu shoulder massages and grabs. Another former employee said that Marshall touched her neck and complimented her hair while she tried to work at her desk. One aide who said she gave her notice after Marshall touched her just above her buttocks, said that Marshall had warned her that he could get her fired from her new job.
In a statement given to The Detroit News, the congresswoman said, “None of the concerns brought to my attention involved allegations of sexual harassment.”Lawrence added in the statement that “As in any office environment, there have been occasions when employees have brought workplace concerns to my attention and those concerns were promptly addressed. Had I been made aware of any concerns about sexual harassment in my office, those concerns would have been promptly investigated and appropriate disciplinary action taken, including termination of employment of any individual engaged in sexually harassing behavior.”
But the anonymous employees insist she was aware. “She’s complicit because she knows,” said a former staffer, who said she specifically told Lawrence that Marshall made “inappropriate” comments and physical contact. “She knows he makes comments. She knows he rubs the back and rubs the shoulders. … She’d say, ‘I know there are some problems, but he has his good points too,’ and ‘[the good] outweighs the other stuff.’”
Speaking to POLITICO, the former aides alleged a number of other disturbing incidents — including one case where Marshall followed an employee to her car.
One year after the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, Democrats came roaring back from that devastating loss on Tuesday night with resounding outcomes in a slew of general elections across the nation. Perhaps no other election encapsulated the rejection of Trumpism and a push for tolerance than a State House delegate race in Virginia. Danica Roem, a Democrat, unseated longtime incumbent State House Delegate Robert G. Marshall, a Republican, making her the first openly transgender person to be elected to public office in the state.
Marshall,73, had authored a controversial “bathroom bill,” a proposal that would have required people to use the restroom that corresponds with the gender on their original birth certificates, earlier this year. The bill was eventually killed, foreshadowing Marshall’s fate in state government. Roem, 33, is a former journalist who significantly out-fundraised Marshall during the campaign and who withstood an ugly advertisement late in the race that disparaged her for her gender, The Washington Post reported.
In an interview in the moments after her big win, Roem discussed her gender identity and said it played a role in her victory. “Yeah, I am a transgender woman,” Roem said. “We won because I am a transgender woman. Because I am a reporter. Because I am a lifelong member of Manassas. Because of my inherent identifiers — not despite them. I never ran away from them. I championed them.” Watch a clip of her remarks below.
Virginia voters who supported Roem saw her victory as a pivotal moment as well. “It’s kind of like Barack [Obama] winning the presidential election. I’m really proud of Virginia,” John Coughlin, 63, a real estate agent in Manassas who voted for Roem, said. “I don’t care about religious issues. I don’t care about items that are big on his agenda. He should be more mainstream,” Coughlin added, referring to the outgoing Marshall. For more on Roem’s historic victory, watch the video below. And it was not just a big night for Roem, several other Democrats achieved groundbreaking victories in other local elections. CNN has a good roundup here.
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Read the full story at The Washington Post.
A former news anchor from Boston alleged on Wednesday that Kevin Spacey sexually assaulted her teenage son last year. It’s the latest in a slew of allegations made against the actor, who was fired from his job as the lead character on Netflix’s hit show House of Cards last week amid allegations that, in 1986, he made a physical sexual advance toward a 14-year-old child actor. The spate of accusations Spacey is facing comes in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, in which men and women from all walks of life are publicly sharing their experiences with various forms of sexual misconduct.
Appearing at a news conference alongside her attorney, Heather Unruh, a former anchorwoman for local TV station WCVB, detailed an alleged encounter her son had with Spacey last year. Using a tissue to dab away tears, Unruh told reporters that her son met Spacey at the Club Car Restaurant on Nantucket Island last year. Spacey, she said, bought her “starstruck” son “drink after drink after drink.” And “when my son was drunk,” Unruh continued, “Spacey stuck his hand inside my son’s pants and grabbed his genitals. This was completely unexpected and my son’s efforts to shift his body to remove Spacey’s hand were only momentarily successful.” Unruh said “the violation continued and my son panicked.”
Unruh said Spacey tried to persuade her son to go with him “to a private after-hours party to drink even more.” Then, Spacey excused himself to go to the bathroom, and a woman who had seen that her son was distressed by the encounter spoke with him and “told him to run and he did.”
“He ran as fast as he could all the way to his grandmother’s house,” Unruh recalled. Once there, he told his sister about the encounter and the siblings called their mother in the middle of the night to tell her. She said her son handed over evidence to Nantucket police, but declined to elaborate on what that entailed. The New York Times made efforts to reach Spacey for comment on Wednesday, but did not receive a reply.
She acknowledged that her son, a sophomore in college who did not attend the press conference, was drunk and had told Spacey that he was 21 years old at the time, even though he was 18. But, she said, “I want to make it clear: This was a criminal act.” She added that the scores of women who have come forward against Weinstein in recent weeks have “paved the way” for her son to share his experience.
Addressing the actor, Unruh said, “To Kevin Spacey, I want to say this: Shame on you for what you did to my son.”
Mitchell Garabedian, the attorney representing Unruh’s son, is famous for having represented victims of the Catholic Church clergy sex abuse scandal and was depicted by Stanley Tucci in the movie Spotlight. He said that the accusation made by Unruh’s son against Spacey is “well within the statute of limitations” for a civil claim and “also within the criminal statute of limitations.”
Below, watch a clip from Unruh’s press conference.
Read the full story at Boston.com.