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Student Blog Series: Sean “Diddy” Combs and How Fame and Influence can Foster Exploitation

Posted: April 22, 2024

In recent months, Sean “Diddy” Combs, famously known as “P. Diddy” or “Puff Daddy,” has become the subject of several sexual assault cases. A prominent figure in the music industry, Combs is accused of various acts of sexual harassment and abuse, including rape, nonconsensual pornography, sexual slavery, and sex trafficking. Legal action arose in  November of 2023, when his long-term singer ex-girlfriend Cassandra Ventura (aka “Cassie”), who chose to be named publicly, alleged that Combs controlled and abused her throughout their relationship, plying her with drugs and alcohol, forcing her to engage in sexual activities with prostituted men, raping her, and recording pornographic content without her consent.

Since then, four other women and one man have come forward with their own lawsuits, with the most recent case being brought in early April of this year. While Cassie has since settled her case against Combs, each of the subsequent cases present similar themes of harassment and abuse. In each instance it is clear that Combs used his power and influence as a leader in the hip-hop industry to control and manipulate his victims, as evidenced by the quick settlement of Cassie’s case.

Additional examples of this can be seen in the December lawsuit, filed by a woman identified only as Jane Doe, who stated that Combs and two of his associates trafficked her when she was just “a vulnerable high school teenager.” He proceeded to supply the seventeen-year-old minor with drugs and alcohol, take her on his private jet, and rape her alongside two other men. Furthermore, many of these cases, including Cassie’s, detail Diddy’s use of “revenge porn” as a form of leverage over and exploitation of his victims.

By far the largest and highest profile of the active cases is that of Rodney Jones, the producer of Diddy’s 2023 project, “The Love Album.” In early 2024, Jones filed a lawsuit alleging, amongst other things, “that Combs coerced him into recruiting [prostituted persons] by promising money, property and career advancement, as well as by threatening physical harm.” The seventy-three page lawsuit lists several influential figures in the music industry as defendants, including Universal Music Group Chief Executive Lucian Charles Grainge and  former Motown Records Chief Executive Ethiopia Habtemariam. It also contains graphic images and detailed accounts of Combs’ sexual misconduct as well as the inner-workings of his “freak-off” sex parties. The suit further claims that “affiliation with, and or sponsorship of Combs sex-trafficking parties garnered legitimacy and access to celebrities such as famous athletes, political figures, artist[s], musicians, and international dignitaries.”

Similarly, in the newest case filed this month against both Diddy and his son Christian Combs, Grace O’Marcaigh alleges witnessing similar parties featuring copious drug use and a “constant rotation of suspected [prostituted persons] and celebrities. Having worked on a yacht chartered by the two men in late 2022, O’Marcaigh is a survivor who witnessed the “hedonistic environment” of a Diddy party first hand. Her account, combined with that of Jones, depicts gatherings filled with famous clientele who turned to Combs when they wanted to engage in illicit sexual behavior. Moreover, to arrange these parties, Combs relied on the services of his chief of staff, Kristina Khorram, to help circulate drugs at these “freak off” parties as well as organize and facilitate Comb’s sex trafficking scheme. As a woman, Khorram was in a unique position to deceive victims into feeling “safe.” However, when individuals like Jones turned to her to voice their abuse, her response was merely “Sean will be Sean.”  Beyond her managerial role in the sex trafficking operation, Khorram’s presence served to quiet suspicions in regard to the illegal activity and sexual misconduct. Jones’ attorney goes so far as to refer to her as “the Ghislaine Maxwell to Sean Combs Jeffrey Epstein.

On March 25, in light of new information revealed in the Jones lawsuit, investigative efforts culminated in two Homeland Security raids of the rapper’s homes in Los Angeles and Miami. These operations were connected to a federal sex trafficking investigation, to which multiple witnesses have implicated Combs. At this moment, both of Diddy’s sons have been taken into custody along with one of his known drug suppliers, however Combs himself was not apprehended.

The investigation of Sean Combs reflects a growing trend to hold celebrities accountable for sex crimes, as seen, for example, by the cases of Harvey Weinstein, Danny Masterson, and R. Kelly. Furthermore, it highlights the prevalence of celebrity trafficking and abuse, as exhibited by Jefferey Epstein. Such human trafficking operations rely on the ability to manipulate victims, and celebrities like Sean Combs serve as an effective method of coercion. Activities such as traveling by private jet, visiting a recording studio, or partying on a yacht which require a large amount of wealth to achieve, are enticing to the average individual, especially when combined with notoriety of the main invitee. Moreover, such attention is commonplace for most celebrities, and in the case of Combs reflected a sense of entitlement to, among other things, drugs, constant service, and people’s bodies. This entitlement has culminated in years of abuse, which is only now being brought to light thanks to the bravery of the several survivors who have thus far chosen to pursue legal action.

The CSE Institute commends the bravery of these and other survivors for testifying against their abusers and for detailing the impact that abuse has had on their lives. When asked about her case, Cassandra Ventura stated that she was encouraged to take action and speak up for herself  as well as “for the benefit of other women who face violence and abuse in their relationships.” The CSE Institute applauds her bravery as well as that of the other survivors who have come forward to share their stories.

The CSE Institute will provide updates as they become available.

This piece is part of our first-year law student blog series. Congratulations to Alex Taylor on being chosen!

 All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or of Villanova University.

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