One of the women who has accused media mogul Russell Simmons of rape said she hopes a new documentary brings more visibility to black women and girls.
“I hope that black women and girls become more visible as a result of this documentary,” Drew Dixon said. The film is set to premier at the Sundance Film Festival at the end of the month.
Dixon and two other women, Sil Lai Abrams and Alexia Norton Jones, spoke with CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller ahead of the premier. Each of them described Simmons’ actions as rape.
“This is violently tackled and raped — while saying no and fighting and crying,” Dixon said. She said she was working with Simmons when he allegedly attacked her in 1995.
“I literally worked for him. He was ordering me a car, and he told me to come upstairs and pick up a demo. I thought I would be in his apartment for five total minutes. That’s it,” she said. “And he showed up naked, wearing a condom, and tackled me to his bed, while I screamed and fought and said, ‘No,’ and cried. That’s rape.”
Abrams said she occasionally dated Simmons.
“Back in the day, we would just say you hooked up. I mean, you hung out. It was nothing serious,” she said.
Regardless, she said, that part of their relationship was over before Simmons allegedly raped her in 1994.
“He’ll say, ‘Yes, we had a sexual relationship,’ but he cannot address the fact that I was too drunk to consent, and that the next day I called him up, screaming. And I attempted suicide. He knew,” she said. “And I told him why, that he had ruined my life, and that I had nothing.”
Jones knew Simmons before he was famous and said he raped her on their first and only date in 1991.
“This was a very swift attack, and what was going through my mind more than anything was, ‘Why?'” she said. “Because I liked Russell. And I, you know, I would’ve just kissed him. I would’ve made out with him. I would’ve — he didn’t have to attack me.”
“He raped me right up against the ****ing wall. Excuse my language. But he — that’s what he did. I had to keep this secret,” she said.
Simmons said all of his relationships have been consensual. In a statement, he said:
“I have issued countless detailed denials of the false accusations against me, including pages of sworn witness testimony including family members, clergy, journalists and mutual friends who were present at every stage. These denials have been validated by my passing 9 prosecution-grade lie detector tests. I have also provided sworn statements and pointed out fatal flaws and inconsistencies in written accounts, some published in their own books, to reputable media organizations which have acted responsibly.
I have admitted to being a massively unconscious ‘playboy’ which today is appropriately titled ‘womanizer.’ Continuing to live my life honorably as an open book for decades, devoid of any kind of violence against anyone, as has been documented and examined in detail worldwide since the very early days of hip hop, which is my life’s testimony and work. What I won’t do is engage in a shootout of attacks and counter-attacks. The social change from today’s activism is more important to the world my daughters will inherit than any dirt from false accusations from nearly 40 years ago.
My life as an entrepreneur, yogi and fighter for new and diverse voices, as well as the faith placed in my work by millions around the world, has been a force for good and will continue to be as long as I’m able to serve the communities I love and cherish.”
CBS News reached out to Simmons to request the witness testimony and sworn statements mentioned in the statement, but was told he “will not release these documents to media outlets at this time.”
Abrams, Dixon and Jones’ decision to speak out publicly came after a groundswell of sexual assault allegations against prominent men like Harvey Weinstein.
“It felt like this portal opened suddenly, where women were being believed, and I wondered if that would apply to black women,” Dixon said.
Each of the women filed a police report decades after the alleged crimes were committed and beyond the statute of limitations to prosecute. Simmons faces no charges.
But, coming forward was complicated for them.
“Black people have very few heroes to spare. Not many of us get to the level of success of a Russell Simmons, which is why I was so proud of him,” Dixon said.
As co-founder of Def Jam Records, Simmons is considered a pillar of hip-hop culture, which he helped to define from its earliest days through music and fashion.
When Oprah Winfrey was announced as an executive producer of the documentary about the accusations in December, Simmons launched a private and public campaign to question her involvement, saying on Instagram “I have never been violent or forced myself on anyone.”
“He is a media mogul,” Dixon said. “He has millions of followers. I have, like, a thousand … And he is using all of that muscle to try to drown out our voices.”
Citing creative differences, Winfrey stepped away from the film last week and in a statement said, “There is more work to be done on the film to illuminate the full scope of what the victims endured.” She also bolstered her backing of the accusers by adding, “I want it to be known that I unequivocally believe and support the women.”
“It’s a small black world,” Abrams said. “And because everything is one degree of Russell Simmons, and nobody wants to get in the middle, nobody stands up.”
Asked if it was worth it for them to speak up, Dixon said she feels it was.
“It was like carrying a malignant cancer,” she said. “I’m just relieved to be done enabling him essentially by not telling people what he did.”
The filmmakers of the documentary said it was always destined for the Sundance Film Festival with or without Winfrey as its executive producer. The yet-to-be titled film is scheduled to premiere on January 25.