Tonya Cooley, who appeared on MTV‘s “The Real World: Chicago,” is suing two of her male cast members on “The Real World/Road Rules Challenge” for allegedly raping her with a toothbrush. According to the lawsuit obtained by TMZ, Tonya is suing Kenneth “Kenny” Santucci and Evan Starkman for allegedly taking a fourth cast member’s toothbrush and rubbing it against her labia while she was passed out (which I’m assuming means drunk, not asleep). Kenneth and Evan also put the toothbrush inside her vagina, which is sexual assault.
MTV and Bunim/Murray Productions, which produces the show, are also named in the lawsuit because Tonya claims cameras were rolling when Kenneth and Evan assaulted her. She says that producers never told her what happened when she woke up and even replaced the cast member’s toothbrush that was used in the alleged assault. Tonya said she and other cast members reported sexual abuse during filming to higher-ups, but their complaints were ignored.
I shudder reading these articles about Tonya Cooley’s lawsuit, not just because of the alleged rape but because I wonder about the defenses MTV and Bunim-Murry Productions has set up to defend themselves in incidents like this. (Calls made by TMZ to MTV were not returned; calls made by TMZ to Bunim/Murry Productions were hung up on.) There may be some clues, though: In August, the blog Runnin’ Scared leaked a cast member contract for “The Real World” which revealed very specific language that protects the network from being sued by cast members who are harmed by others during filming. “The Real World” is obviously a different show than “The Real World/Road Rules Challenge,” but it’s reasonable to assume contracts would be similar. Most pertinently, the “Real World” contract that Runnin’ Scared published stated that interacting with other cast members carries the risk of “non-consensual physical contact,” which presumably could refer to anything from a fistfight to a sexual assault.
(The contract also states that if you contract an STD or get knocked up during filming ["gonorrhea, herpes, syphilis, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), Chlamydia, scabies (crabs),'hepatitis, genital warts, and other communicable and sexually transmitted diseases or Pregnancy; etc"], MTV is not responsible. Hopefully that isn’t pertinent here, too.)
Obviously MTV needs to cover its ass from getting sued for any of the drama that regularly goes down on these “Real World” and “Real World/Road Rules Challenge” episodes; every one of them is filled with beer-fueled brawls and tequila shot-inspired hookups galore. The matter at hand would be, though — as my rudimentary understanding of the law sees it — would be if cameramen/producers witnessed or had knowledge of cast members Santucci and Starkman sexually assaulting Cooley and did nothing to stop it and/or tried to cover it up afterwards.
I would hate to think one human being — let alone a whole film crew/TV network — would do that to another human being. We’ll keep you posted.