Phillips & Associates Seeks Justice for A Woman Diddy Sexually Abused

Many essential changes occurred in the wake of the #metoo movement, including within the law. In May 2022, the New York State Assembly passed a law that gave adult victims of abuse the opportunity to pursue relief in civil court, even if the abuse happened many years (or even decades) ago. Phillips & Associates proudly represents one of those survivors, Joi Dickerson-Neal, in her legal action against music mogul Sean "P. Diddy" Combs. Our client's case is a reminder that if you've endured sexual misconduct -- no matter how powerful the abuser -- you should contact an experienced New York sexual abuse lawyer to find out how you can hold your abuser accountable.

Ms. Dickerson-Neal's lawsuit focuses on an encounter in early January 1991, when she was a college student. The teen reluctantly accepted a dinner invitation from Combs, who was an acquaintance. During the date, Combs allegedly drugged the woman, subsequently sexually assaulting her (and video recording the assault.) Days later, a male friend allegedly confided to watching the video and that "everyone" had seen it.

The complaint describes how this trauma threw the young woman's life into a tailspin. The incident caused the woman to endure "overwhelming feelings of humiliation, embarrassment, violation, and constant apprehension" about how many viewers had seen the video. She became depressed and experienced thoughts of suicide. Her mental health problems forced her to drop out of Syracuse University.

Even as she "tried to block" out Combs's existence, she continued to experience mental health issues for many years. As Ms. Dickerson-Neal's legal team (which includes Michelle Caiola, a partner at Phillips & Associates) explained it, she "has not been able to escape the continuing impact of the harm Combs caused her many years ago. Through the Adult Survivors Act, she can avail herself to the courts to finally seek justice."

Legal Action as a Therapeutic Step

Pursuing her case has proven to be a mental health benefit, Ms. Dickerson-Neal explained in a statement. "I am so thankful for the bravery of the other women that came forward, the Adult Survivors Act which opened up the filing window to seek justice, and the unwavering support from my attorneys. For 32 years, the only people I have been able to confide in were my close friends and therapists. I'm feeling as if the darkness has been lifted and I can freely move forward."

She also stated that Casandra ("Cassie") Ventura's recent lawsuit against Diddy (which alleged rape and a years-long pattern of abuse) inspired her to step forward.

The Adult Survivors Act

Normally, a November 2023 civil lawsuit regarding events that occurred in January 1991 would never make it to trial. That's because of the statute of limitations, which restricts the time a victim has to seek justice for a wrong done to them. For many years, a survivor who endured the sort of abuse that Ms. Dickerson-Neal alleged would have had only three years to bring a civil suit.

In 2019, at the #metoo movement's zenith, New York State changed its laws regarding the statute of limitations, moving the time window for pursuing justice in these sorts of instances from three years to 20 years.

That 2019 law didn't help survivors like Ms. Dickerson-Neal. It didn't make the new 20-year statute of limitations retroactive (meaning that anyone who was abused before the law took effect still had only three years to file.) Even if it had been retroactive, 20 years still would not have been enough time for her situation.

Enter the Adult Survivors Act, enacted in New York in May 2022. That law allowed survivors to file suit for sexual assault regardless of when the assault occurred, as long as they filed between November 24, 2022, and November 24, 2023.

The Adult Survivors Act covers several crimes, including:

  • Rape,
  • Sexual abuse,
  • Persistent sexual abuse,
  • Aggravated sexual abuse,
  • Female genital mutilation,
  • Facilitation of a sex offense with a controlled substance, and
  • Forcible touching.

The abuse Ms. Dickerson-Neal allegedly experienced involved numerous of these crimes, including sexual abuse, forcible sexual contact, and the use of a controlled substance to facilitate sex.

The Psychology of Trauma

A spokesperson for Combs responded to the allegations by pointing out the age of the events in question. The reality is, however, that survivors of abuse often delay reporting or saying anything, and one reason comes down to the way brains work. Enduring sexual abuse generally causes the survivor to experience a "trauma reaction." It may take the survivor years fully to come to grips with the event, and they may need to complete that processing before they feel ready to come forward and pursue legal action.

This process may become even more complex -- and more prolonged -- if the power dynamic between the survivor and the abuser is extremely disparate. Clearly, that was the case with Combs and our client.

If the abuser was a powerful person, then that reality may worsen a survivor's fears that no one will hold her abuser to account. As Ms. Caiola pointed out, however, "Combs should not be immune from liability because of his wealth and public stature."

Each sexual abuse survivor's journey is unique and, as Ms. Caiola said in relation to Ms. Dickerson-Neal's case, "Everyone deserves to be heard." At Phillips & Associates, our skillful New York sexual harassment attorneys fight every day to ensure that our clients get the fair hearing that they deserve and that their abusers are held to account. You can reach our trustworthy attorneys online or by calling (833) 529-3476 to set up a free and confidential consultation to find out how we can help.

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