After Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein was accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct, dozens of other women have come forward to bring similar allegations up against powerful names in media and politics. Now, legendary music producer Russell Simmons is next on that list.
Simmons announced Thursday morning that he is stepping away from his companies after Jenny Lumet wrote a column in The Hollywood Reporter detailing a terrifying allegation of Simmons sexually assaulting her. The details Lumet included in her story are jaw-dropping.
Lumet claims Simmons pursued her “lightly, on and off, over a course of years,” but it suddenly got very aggressive one night in 1991. Lumet explains that when she was 24 years old, Simmons offered to bring her home from a restaurant, and she accepted. But when she told the driver her address, Simmons repeatedly said “no” and then the car doors locked.
The driver instead took them to Simmons's apartment. Lumet says she at no point said, “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 explains that after Simmons said “no” for the second time to her plea, her “voice left” her.
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.
Lumet then explains that Simmons brought her up to his apartment bedroom and proceeded to have sex with her. She explains that she listened to what he said out of fear and thought, “Just keep calm and you'll get home.”
Lumet then explains that she then left the apartment and got into the elevator by herself. She went home and was “grateful to be secure” in her home. She never told anyone until October 27 after reports emerged of the allegations against Weinstein.
The two saw each other in public multiple times after the alleged sexual assault, but Lumet says they never spoke about that night and that the dynamic between them was “muted.”
Lumet finishes her story by writing:
There is so much guilt, and so much shame. 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. In this very moment, I feel a pang to protect your daughters. I don't think you are inclined to protect mine.
In response to Lumet's article, Simmons announced that he would be stepping down to “commit [himself] to continuing [his] personal growth, spiritual learning and above all to listening.”
Read Simmons's full statement below:
I have been informed with great anguish of Jenny Lumet's recollection about our night together in 1991. I know Jenny and her family and have seen her several times over the years since the evening she described. 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 apologize.
This is a time of great transition. The voices of the voiceless, those who have been hurt or shamed, deserve and need to be heard. As the corridors of power inevitably make way for a new generation, I don't want to be a distraction so I am removing myself from the businesses that I founded. The companies will now be run by a new and diverse generation of extraordinary executives who are moving the culture and consciousness forward. I will convert the studio for yogic science into a not-for-profit center of learning and healing. As for me, I will step aside and commit myself to continuing my personal growth, spiritual learning and above all to listening.