Eliza Dushku, an actress best known for a wide variety of famous roles that include a very popular one on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, recently accused Hollywood stunt coordinator Joel Kramer of sexually assaulting her when she was 12 while working on 1995’s True Lies. Kramer was 35 at the time of the alleged incident.
Dushku went into detail in a Facebook post yesterday:
When I was 12 years old, while filming “True Lies”, I was sexually molested by Joel Kramer, one of Hollywood’s leading stunt coordinators.
Ever since, I have struggled with how and when to disclose this, if ever. At the time, I shared what happened to me with my parents, two adult friends and one of my older brothers. No one seemed ready to confront this taboo subject then, nor was I.
I am grateful to the women and men who have gone before me in recent months. The ever-growing list of sexual abuse and harassment victims who have spoken out with their truths have finally given me the ability to speak out. It has been indescribably exhausting, bottling this up inside me for all of these years.
I remember, so clearly 25 years later, how Joel Kramer made me feel special, how he methodically built my and my parents’ trust, for months grooming me; exactly how he lured me to his Miami hotel room with a promise to my parent that he would take me for a swim at the stunt crew’s hotel pool and for my first sushi meal thereafter. I remember vividly how he methodically drew the shades and turned down the lights; how he cranked up the air-conditioning to what felt like freezing levels, where exactly he placed me on one of the two hotel room beds, what movie he put on the television (Coneheads); how he disappeared in the bathroom and emerged, naked, bearing nothing but a small hand towel held flimsy at his mid-section. I remember what I was wearing (my favorite white denim shorts, thankfully, secured enough for me to keep on). I remember how he laid me down on the bed, wrapped me with his gigantic writhing body, and rubbed all over me. He spoke these words: “You’re not going to sleep on me now sweetie, stop pretending you’re sleeping,” as he rubbed harder and faster against my catatonic body. When he was ‘finished’, he suggested, “I think we should be careful…,” [about telling anyone] he meant. I was 12, he was 36.
I remember how afterwards, the taxi driver stared at me in the rear view mirror when Joel Kramer put me on his lap in the backseat and clutched me and grew aroused again; and how my eyes never left the driver’s eyes during that long ride over a Miami bridge, back to my hotel and parent. I remember how Joel Kramer grew cold with me in the ensuing weeks, how everything felt different on the set.
And I remember how soon-after, when my tough adult female friend (in whom I had confided my terrible secret on the condition of a trade that she let me drive her car around the Hollywood Hills) came out to the set to visit and face him, later that very same day, by no small coincidence, I was injured from a stunt-gone-wrong on the Harrier jet. With broken ribs, I spent the evening in the hospital. To be clear, over the course of those months rehearsing and filming True Lies, it was Joel Kramer who was responsible for my safety on a film that at the time broke new ground for action films. On a daily basis he rigged wires and harnesses on my 12 year old body. My life was literally in his hands: he hung me in the open air, from a tower crane, atop an office tower, 25+ stories high. Whereas he was supposed to be my protector, he was my abuser.
Why speak out now? I was 12, he was 36. It is incomprehensible. Why didn’t an adult on the set find his predatory advances strange — that over-the-top special attention he gave me. Fairly early on he nicknamed me “Jailbait” and brazenly called me by this name in a sick flirty way in front of others (at the time, I remember asking one of my older brothers what it meant). Sure, I’ve come to understand the terrible power dynamics that play into whistle-blowing by “subordinates” against persons in power, how difficult it can be for someone to speak up. But I was a child. Over the years I’ve really struggled as I’ve wondered how my life might have been different if someone, any one grown-up who witnessed his sick ways, had spoken up before he lured me to that hotel room.
Years ago, I had heard second hand that Joel Kramer was “found out” and forced to leave the business. I learned recently that in fact he still works at the top of the industry. And a few weeks ago, I found an internet photo of Joel Kramer hugging a young girl. That image has haunted me near nonstop since. I can no longer hide what happened.
Hollywood has been very good to me in many ways. Nevertheless, Hollywood also failed to protect me, a child actress. I like to think of myself as a tough Boston chick, in many ways I suppose not unlike Faith, Missy, or Echo. Through the years, brave fans have regularly shared with me how some of my characters have given them the conviction to stand up to their abusers. Now it is you who give me strength and conviction. I hope that speaking out will help other victims and protect against future abuse.
With every person that speaks out, every banner that drops down onto my iphone screen disclosing similar stories/truths, my resolve strengthens. Sharing these words, finally calling my abuser out publicly by name, brings the start of a new calm.
Kramer has since come forward and denied the actress’s claims:
“Wow. That’s news to me. I never sexually assaulted her. She’s a sweet girl. We all looked out for her, that’s surprising.”
Kramer also said the following about what Dusku’s statement:
“I’m just shocked. I don’t know why she would say that. We took her out to dinner and we took her to our hotel for a swim at the pool.”
True Lies director James Cameron has come out and said he had no idea that any of this ever occurred:
“Directors are historically pretty oblivious to the inter-personal things that are happening on the set, because they’re focused on what they’re doing creatively, but had I known about there would have been no mercy. I have daughters. There really would be no mercy now.”
“Eliza is very brave for speaking up. It’s just heartbreaking that it happened to her. I mean, I know the party. Not well, he hasn’t worked for me since then. The fact (is) that this happened under our noses, and we didn’t know about it…”
He also said it’s not just something that’s happening in Hollywood – but that it’s happening everywhere:
“This has been endemic throughout human systems, not just Hollywood. I’m glad Eliza did that…This is not a reckoning for Hollywood. This is not a reckoning for America. This is a reckoning for the human race. This sh!t has been going on since day one, you know. So whenever there’s a male in a position of power and he’s got a piece missing and doesn’t understand the consequences of what he’s doing and maybe out of this can come some education that can pull some men who would otherwise go down that path back from the brink.”
Since Dushku’s mother was unable to attend the film due to her commitments as a Political Scientist, Dusku was assigned a legal guardian, Sue Booth-Forbes, who has now backed Dushku’s statement, releasing one of her own:
Eliza Dushku is telling the truth.
I was her legal guardian and took seriously my need to have her in my sight at all times, which was often difficult to do. I was on the True Lies set for 3 weeks and reported Joel Kramer’s inappropriate sexual behavior towards 12-year-old Eliza to a person in authority. I was met with blank stares and had the sense that I wasn’t telling that person anything they didn’t already know.
I was at the hospital and can verify that she was hurt and in pain with breaks/cracks to her ribs. Surely they have medical records somewhere to prove that.
I tried to keep Joel away from her as did others working on the set, but because of all the stunts she had to do, he was constantly involved with her and her body. Those who knew didn’t know what to do and were far enough down the pecking order to be afraid of losing their jobs if they pressed the issue because all the power lay in the hands of those who called the shots and would stop at nothing to protect each other.
It has been 25 years, and I am grateful for the current efforts to stop this madness. I am so proud of Eliza for writing her eloquent, accurately detailed account of the trauma she suffered at his hands. So much about her journey since then can be explained by her feeling powerless to protect herself and prevent his abusing her. He creeped me out and sexualized everything; in fact that was the atmosphere of the set the entire time I was there. I did the only thing I knew to do then — report his behavior to someone with some clout, and that went nowhere. I look back now and realize that Eliza’s natural, adorable feistiness had taken on a patina of defensiveness/protectiveness for good cause.
As I look back on the experience, there should never have been a child on that set because of the misogyny, sexual language and attitudes of the crowd of immature white men who made up the vast majority of the crew. She was treated like one of the boys, not a 12-year-old girl. I also look back wishing I had done more but forgiving myself a bit because there was really nothing I could do given the power structure of the movie industry. Everyone one involved has to turn a blind eye to such things in order to keep their jobs and not get in the way of the movie being made. Lord have mercy if something stopped the moneymaking wheels from turning.
That was years ago when that power structure was the norm, and the bullies were in charge. Only now does it appear that women and men know what to do and are doing it. May Eliza be believed and supported and may her courage in telling her truth make a contribution to the sea change that is in progress.
As I write this, I can feel a bit of the paranoia caused by associating my name, hence my business, with this volatile subject. No wonder people over time haven’t told their truth. Such unscrupulous, powerful, narcissistic, men without boundaries will do anything they have to to protect themselves, their reputations, each other, and most significantly their money. I have to wonder what could they do to me, my reputation, and my business.
But this time I am refusing to allow myself to be intimidated. Joel Kramer did what Eliza said he did. He is a pedophile, and he must face the consequences.
Thanks for listening, Sue
We’ll be sure to keep you updated as more on this develops. It’s pretty sad that a story like this isn’t really a surprise any more, as we’ve already seen the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner and Louis C.K. all accused of sexual misconduct. Here’s hoping there won’t be many more stories like this one – but we’re sure that’s wishful thinking.
What you think of this story? Are you surprised all of this has been going on in Hollywood? Be sure to tell us all of your thoughts in the comments.