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Russell Simmons Accuser Says She 'Froze,' Tried to 'Normalize' What Happened

Russell Simmons and Brett Ratner
DAVID X PRUTTING/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Russell Simmons and Brett Ratner attend TOMMY HILFIGER Fall 2008 Fashion Show at Avery Fisher Hall on Feb. 7, 2008 in New York City.

Fashion model Keri Claussen Khalighi, who says she was 17 when she was sexually assaulted by Russell Simmons, explained why she didn't immediately flee the scene of the alleged crime in her first live TV interview since going public with her allegations.

Khalighi told the Los Angeles Times that she went to Simmons' apartment, with director Brett Ratner in tow, in 1991, where Simmons quickly began making aggressive sexual advances, including tearing off her clothes. “I looked over at Brett and said ‘help me’ and I'll never forget the look on his face,” she told the newspaper. “In that moment, the realization fell on me that they were in it together.” Khalighi said that Simmons then tried to force her to have intercourse, which she "fought … wildly." He coerced her to perform oral sex, though, she said, and she "acquiesced." 

After that initial assault, though, Khalighi didn't run out, she clarified on Megyn Kelly Today, she stayed and took a shower. While taking a shower, she told the Times, Simmons walked up behind her and briefly penetrated her without her consent. She jerked away and then he left, she told the paper, saying of the experience, "it hurt so much."

Khalighi defended her behavior in a video interview from L.A. (She is nine months pregnant and expecting her third daughter on Monday, Kelly explained.) She said she's learned that sexual assaults don't follow a "cut-and-dry" pattern but women often fight, flee or freeze.

"I certainly froze, and I certainly did what I could to normalize what was an incredibly hard to process situation," she told Kelly. "It took me years to process this experience."

When asked if she blamed and shamed herself, Khalighi said "absolutely," adding, "There's a lot of guilt and shame involved in what happened."

When asked how she refused Simmons' advances, Khalighi said, choking up, that she made it clear with her "body language," adding, "It's very apparent when someone doesn't want an advance to happen." Her body was closed, she said and she asked Ratner for help, but after seeing his face she realized "this was their plan all along," she said. "No help was gonna come."

Simmons strongly disputed Khalighi's account in a statement to the Times claiming, “Everything that happened between us 26 years ago was completely consensual and with Keri’s full participation."

In a statement received by THR, Simmons added, "I completely and unequivocally deny the horrendous allegations of non-consensual sex against me with every fiber of my being." 

Ratner's attorney Martin Singer said of the incident with Khalighi that Ratner has "no recollection" of her asking him for help and didn't see her "protest."

When asked about Simmons' statement and claim that what happened was "consensual and with [her] full participation," Khalighi shook her head and said, "I don't even know what to say." 

"I almost don't want to speak against that because it's ludicrous," she added, mentioning, what she told the Times, that she's spoken with Simmons about the encounter both in person and over the phone, where, she told Kelly, there was "no dispute about what happened and he apologized."

"What he was speaking about privately with me was completely different from what he was saying publicly," she said, calling the discrepancy, "surprising and repugnant with lies, hypocrisy and denial."

Khalighi said that she saw Simmons at the Soho House in West Hollywood last year, where he approached her and delivered a "really touching, remorseful apology" for his behavior. Simmons' attorney, Brad D. Rose, meanwhile, says the apology was in the “context for the embarrassment and upheaval the weekend caused her" connected to her “infidelity.” She disputes that account.

Khalighi said she reached out to Simmons after the Times posted its Nov. 1 story about Ratner and said she was considering telling her story. He called her and they spoke for 27 minutes, phone records reviewed by the Times reveal. She said during that call he didn't deny any of her claims but apologized and mentioned that he's the father of two daughters.

As for why she's going public with her accusations against Simmons, Khalighi cited the nationwide conversation about sexual harassment and assault, calling it an "empowerment revolution."

"If I can use my experience to further this conversation and facilitate change," she said. "I am bound and determined to make this environment safer for my daughters and the sons and daughters of future generations."

This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.


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