Russell Simmons has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen women, but over Father’s Day weekend his woes seemed to worsen when his ex-wife and daughter took to social media to accuse him of verbal abuse and air the family’s strife.
Kimora Lee Simmons recently shared a series of Instagram stories detailing his alleged abuse.
“No one should live like this. No one’s child. This is abuse,” she wrote on her Instagram story, paired with a screenshot of text messages their daughter Aoki sent her father: “You were putting so much anger and rage on me every phone call. Cursing screaming and God knows what else,” one of the texts read.
She added on another slide: “This is how you (maneuver) with the world and women all around you. Your threats and lies and intimidation (maneuvers) and tactics are sad. Stop it please.” The exes have been embroiled in lawsuits as well. (USA TODAY has reached out to Russell Simmons for comment; he wrote he was “DEEPLY sorry for being frustrated and yelling” in a subsequent Instagram post.)
The Simmons family’s battle is unusually public, but they aren’t alone. Following the rise of the #MeToo movement and a societal shift regarding the importance placed on consent, many people have dealt with someone they know, socialize with or even love being accused of inappropriate behavior. Experts say abuse allegations can tear a family apart, but the key is to avoid engaging with someone who acts this way once their world is upended – regardless of the reason.
“Family and friends of those accused are also impacted by allegations, charges and convictions for sexual violence,” says Elizabeth L. Jeglic, a psychology professor at John Jay College, City University of New York. “Someone they loved and cared for has been accused of a very serious crime.”
A recap of Russell Simmons abuse allegations
The allegations against Simmons were the subject of a 2020 HBO documentary “On the Record.”
“On the Record” follows one of Simmons’ accusers, ex-Def Jam executive Drew Dixon in late 2017 as she makes the difficult choice to come forward with sexual misconduct allegations in The New York Times. In the Times story, she alleges that Simmons, her then-boss at Def Jam Recordings, raped her in his Manhattan apartment in 1995 when she was 24.
Simmons stepped down from his businesses in 2017, following this and more allegations, and relocated to Bali, Indonesia, which has no extradition treaty with the U.S. (The allegations also fall outside the seven-year statute of limitations for sexual assault in New York state, meaning prosecutors cannot pursue criminal charges.)
“While few allegations of sexual abuse result in criminal conviction of the perpetrator, for those who are in the public eye, these allegations impact the way that they are viewed by the public and their families,” says Jeglic.
He’s ‘a monster’:‘On the Record’ gives first-hand accounts of Russell Simmons rape claims
What Kimora Lee Simmons, children can do from here
In the aftermath of such accusations – and when families turn on those accused – relationships fall apart.
“What we know about those who perpetrate sexual violence is that they can be viewed as upstanding members of the community, good parents and spouses and also perpetrate abuse,” Jeglic adds.
Once the family dynamics change, it’s important to avoid engaging with someone who displays anger. This could lead to an escalation of abuse, “but if there is no engagement it will decrease over time,” Jeglic adds. “However, it is hurtful when a loved one and someone you care about behaves in such a way. Especially for a child it is hard to understand that a parent can behave in such a way toward them.”
Adult children should set clear, careful boundaries with their parents.
“Setting boundaries for an adult child would be important, so that they can protect their emotional wellbeing because if not, then it’s going to continue to potentially cause anxiety and can cause more challenges,” says Janie Lacy, psychotherapist. They should also watch out for guilt trips or parents trying to play the victim themselves.
Simmons and her children face risks as well for speaking out.
“Those who speak out about abuse publicly often face public scrutiny, victim-blaming, disbelief and other silencing and minimizing behaviors,” says Laura Palumbo, communications director at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. “How we talk about issues of abuse matters.”
Contributing: Patrick Ryan
If you are a victim of domestic violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline allows you to speak confidentially with trained advocates online or by the phone, which they recommend for those who think their online activity is being monitored by their abuser (800-799-7233). They can help survivors develop a plan to achieve safety for themselves and their children.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault, RAINN offers support through the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE & online.rainn.org).
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