On Tuesday, singer Cassie filed a $30 million lawsuit against music mogul and former boyfriend Sean “Diddy” Combs over what the explosive court documents call a “cycle of abuse, violence and sex trafficking” that allegedly took place during their relationship.
Cassie, whose real name is Cassandra Ventura, sued under New York's Adult Survivors Act, a week before its window closes on Nov. 23. The law grants survivors of sexual assault that happened when they were at the age of 18 or older a one-year window to sue their abusers, regardless of when the abuse occurred.
William Rivera, interim executive director at the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, told Yahoo News that in just this month alone, there has been a massive increase in pursuing claims and awareness under the act.
“We have this ongoing case, there are cases in some higher institutions that are well known [and] cases against those in many prison institutions that have really been making a wave as well,” Rivera said.
The civil lawsuit describes Combs as being “prone to uncontrollable rage,” and accuses him of beating Ventura “savagely” on multiple occasions.
"After years in silence and darkness,” Ventura, 37, said in a statement Thursday to the New York Times, “I am finally ready to tell my story, and to speak up on behalf of myself and for the benefit of other women who face violence and abuse in their relationships.”
The suit alleges Ventura was lured into a relationship with Combs starting in 2007, and claims that Combs “often punched, beat, kicked and stomped on Ms. Ventura, resulting in bruises, burst lips, black eyes and bleeding.”
It also states that Combs “blew up a fellow rapper’s car after learning he was interested in Ventura, forced her to find male escorts online and then engage in sex acts with male sex workers under the influence of drugs he introduced to her, and raped her in 2018 after she tried to leave him.”
In a statement to the Times, an attorney for Combs called the allegations “baseless and outrageous lies,” and claimed that Ventura is “seeking a payday.”
“Mr. Combs vehemently denies these offensive and outrageous allegations. For the past six months, Mr. Combs has been subjected to Ms. Ventura’s persistent demand of $30 million, under the threat of writing a damaging book about their relationship, which was unequivocally rejected as blatant blackmail.”
What is the Adult Survivors Act?
In May 2022, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the Adult Survivors Act, which established a one-time “one-year look back window” that began on Nov. 23, 2022, six months after the act was signed into law.
“For many survivors, it may take years to come to terms with the trauma of sexual assault and feel ready to seek justice against an abuser,” Hochul said at a press conference, “while possibly experiencing fear of retaliation or shame.”
“Allowing this one-year look back is really a way of saying we understand the unique suffering that victims endure and the unique nature of these cases, and we're just trying to provide an opportunity for everybody to have their day in court,” Wendy Murphy, a former federal sex crimes prosecutor and professor of sexual violence law at New England Law in Boston, told Yahoo News in May.
The legislation — similar to 2019’s Child Victims Act, which also created a one-year window for childhood sexual abuse survivors to file claims outside of the statute of limitations — gives accusers who were sexually assaulted, as an adult in New York, and who were outside of the statute of limitations window, a year to sue their alleged abusers or any negligent institutions that protected them such as hospitals, universities or places of employment, Rivera explained.
“I hope this shows that survivors are not alone and this could happen to anyone at any point of their lives and that there is support out there,” Rivera said. “We know that when these high-profile cases do happen, there is more awareness brought out about it. But the conversation should be happening all the time. I want them to be supported locally and in their communities … uplifting, hearing, supporting and believing them.”
After the act expires on Nov. 24, survivors will have to file their claims in the window of the existing statute of limitations.
“That was how the legislation was written,” Rivera said, “I wish there was more of an awareness campaign around it and also a component of free legal assistance tied to this so that many would have access without incurring financial barriers.”
Rivera says that there could be more advancements coming down the pipeline in New York to protect survivors from sexual abuse and assault, but policies have to be put in place to ensure that crisis programs can continue operating.
“Every year we have a policy campaign that we work on. This year we are focusing our efforts on advocating and pushing Gov. Hochul to fill the gaps with the expected decrease in funding for victim services because it would devastate these crisis programs throughout New York and those who are impacted the hardest will be our low-income and communities of color."