Jessica Westerman Quoted in the Huffington Post

Katz, Marshall & Banks senior associate Jessica Westerman was quoted in a Huffington Post article about accusations that a contestant on The Bachelorette raped a woman ten years ago.

Uzoma Nwachukwu was a contestant on the current season of the hit television show, The Bachelorette, where he competed with several other men to win the hearts of two young women.  His portrayal as a charming and desirable partner led a woman named Lauren to reach out to ABC and the Huffington Post after the season premiere with allegations that Nwachukwu raped her when she was an 18-year-old high school student. Multiple people confirmed to the HuffPost that Lauren had spoken to them about the assault over the last eight years.

At first, Lauren went through formal channels and spoke with a lawyer hired by The Bachelorette. She provided additional photos and messages from other women who had been involved with Nwachukwu, only to be told that her allegations were “inconclusive.” With this conclusion from its attorney and no criminal charges pending, The Bachelorette took no steps to edit Nwachukwu out of the show in post-production or otherwise distance itself from him, as ABC had done under similar circumstances in the past. Questions are now being raised about the investigation, and the seriousness with which ABC and Warner Bros took Lauren’s allegations.

Ms. Westerman, who represented Kellee Kim, the Survivor contestant who was sexually harassed by a fellow contestant, said that big companies are often more interested in the appearance of an investigation, rather than finding the truth.

“The reason an employer conducts an investigation is so that they can say, ‘We conducted an investigation and it was inconclusive,’” Ms. Westerman said. “In my experience, this is what happens every time.”

Additionally, Ms. Westerman pointed out that since ABC learned about the alleged assault after filming had wrapped, they likely would not be liable for simply continuing their silence. On the other hand, by publically distancing itself from Nwachukwu, or eliminating him from the show, ABC could open itself up to a defamation or racial discrimination lawsuit.

The Bachelorette has had to grapple with sexual assault allegations in the past, and yet the show still has insufficient processes to deal with such allegations of its contestants.

Lauren told HuffPost that she just wants some form of accountability.

Read the full article here.