Sil Lai Abrams, an author, inspirational speaker and domestic violence activist, named Russell Simmons and A.J. Calloway as the men who she said sexually assaulted her in an article published in The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday. Abrams, 47, called out Simmons, 60, for rape and Calloway, 43, for assault.
She wrote a detailed chain of events involving NBC and host Joy Reid, who she said she reached out to for help to get her story to the world. Abrams said she felt emboldened to talk with so many women coming forward with the #MeToo movement.
“I needed to tell my story, to say his name out loud, to let people know what he had done to me,” Abrams said.
What Abrams revealed was outlined in several documents, confirmed through witnesses, spelled out in text messages and the subject of several court orders including orders of protection. Simmons raped her when she was 24 at his penthouse during a night of partying in 1994, she said. Calloway exposed himself twice, among other disgusting things, while in a car in front of her home after the two went for a drink in December 2006, she claimed. The incidents had devastating effects on her, she added.
For those familiar with Abrams’ work, her statements were not new. The multihyphenate had previously laid bare two stories of sexual assaults — 12 years apart — in her 2007 book,”No More Drama.” She left out the names of the attackers, but has now charged them publicly.
With sharing the story, Abrams continued her pattern of raising her voice for survival.
Abrams was going to open up again about sexual assaults to Reid, who she approached last November after speaking about domestic violence as a guest on the cable news host’s show. The author soon learned that her move in making contact with Reid was followed by the same from model Keri Claussen Khalighi on November 19 to name Simmons in a 1991 assault.
Now, at least a dozen women have outed Simmons, who denies the charges, for assault and rape, using news platforms to do it.
Abrams couldn’t move forward with NBC after the network put her through the grinding vetting process and put her story on ice earlier this year, but she will not be quiet, she said.
“Stories are being silenced and it doesn’t matter how much information, how much corroboration and evidence that you have,” Abrams said. “You can do everything the right way and you’ll still be shut down because a news organization doesn’t want to take a risk and face a potential lawsuit, which perpetuates the abuse of power and empowers men like Simmons to say they’re going to be OK.”
MSNBC and Reid addressed Abrams and her words about NBC having tried to silence her from speaking on Simmons and Calloway via emailed statements provided by the network to NewsOne on Thursday afternoon.
Statements attributed to Reid read:
I began working with Sil Lai Abrams last November on a story about her allegations of sexual assault against two prominent men. I pitched the story to New York Magazine because she preferred a print outlet, and they expressed interest. In mid-December, I pitched the story to MSNBC for the first time. The idea was that when the reporting was complete the two news organizations would each release their own stories.
Before sharing the story with MSNBC, I had agreed to Sil Lai’s request that both accused men be included in any final story – not just one or the other. I interviewed Sil Lai and several witnesses, and spent several weeks researching aspects of her story to determine whether there was enough material there to keep going. It was important to her that she tell her full narrative. Ultimately this meant we needed to verify two separate allegations of sexual assault, not just one.
After roughly three months, our team at MSNBC was far along in our reporting on the allegations against one of the accused men, but unable to confirm significant aspects of the claims related to the second man. This meant that we could not report on either man. The process was clearly frustrating for Sil Lai, particularly once other women publicly accused one of the men. Investigative reports like these take time, and not surprisingly, sometimes journalists get frustrated as well. I inappropriately shared that frustration privately with Sil Lai. I completely respect MSNBC’s standards and practices. Meticulous research to get the facts right was the only option, especially given the seriousness of the allegations.
A statement credited to MSNBC read:
When MSNBC pursues any investigative story our mission is always to be as thorough as we can, to scrutinize sources and corroborate information before we report. Anything else falls short of our journalistic standards.
NBC had made major headway in their reporting but ran into issues in gathering all necessary information, an MSNBC spokesperson said. Abrams had planned to move forward with the story if only she was able to name both men in the report, the spokesperson also added.