Woman being sued after accusing Brett Ratner of rape calls on victims to 'have the courage to speak out'
WATCH Woman who was sued after accusing director of rape speaks out
The woman who accused filmmaker Brett Ratner of rape said she will not be silenced, despite being slammed with a defamation lawsuit, telling ABC News, "when everything feels like it's stacked against you, I want women to have the courage to speak out anyway."
"I can't get through the day without being reminded of it," Melanie Kohler told ABC News' chief anchor George Stephanopoulos of the incident she said took place over a decade ago. "I have so much respect for these women who are coming forward and sharing these humiliating things that happened to them."
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"It's not something that you ever want to tell anybody … it makes people look at you differently," Kohler added. "Or at least, that's the way it has been. I'm hoping that the culture is changing."
In a Facebook post last month, Kohler wrote, "Brett Ratner raped me. He's a famous director and producer in Hollywood." Ratner denied Kohler's allegations as "false and malicious claims" in a defamation lawsuit he filed against her last week.
Kohler's accusation came just weeks before six women — including actresses Olivia Munn and Natasha Henstridge — accused the "Rush Hour" director of sexual misconduct in a report published by The Los Angeles Times. Ratner's attorney Martin Singer has previously said that the director "vehemently denies" the allegations reported about him.
"Brett Ratner vehemently denies the outrageous derogatory allegations that have been reported about him, and we are confident that his name will be cleared once the current media frenzy dies down and people can objectively evaluate the nature of these claims," Singer said in the statement. "He understands the seriousness of this issue and the importance of addressing the concerns of victims of sexual misconduct both in the entertainment industry and beyond."
Kohler has since removed her Facebook post, but told told ABC News, "I stand by it."
She said that after posting her story on Facebook last month, she was "just starting to feel healing about it all, and an hour and a half after I posted, my cell phone rang."
Kohler said that Singer, Ratner's attorney, had called her and threatened to sue her for defamation.
"He said that he had seen my Facebook post, and that if I didn't take it down immediately he had authorization from Brett Ratner to sue me immediately," Kohler said.
"I was scared and shocked," she added. "I had never spoken to a lawyer before."
Kohler removed the post but Ratner filed a suit against her last week, arguing in court documents obtained by ABC News that, "This is an action for defamation arising from the defendant's deliberately false and malicious accusations that plaintiff raped the defendant 'about 12 years ago.'"
The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages, noting that Ratner wants a "jury trial" to clear his name.
Kohler alleges that the incident took place approximately 12 years ago, while she was living in Los Angeles, California, and working in marketing. She said that she met Ratner while at a club.
When asked why she did not come forward or report the incident to police at the time, Kohler grew emotional, saying that at she did not think she would be able to go up against a powerful Hollywood director.
"It's different for everyone who goes through something like this, but it's so embarrassing," she said. "It's not something that you ever want to relive again."
"It just felt like there was nothing that I could do. I didn't think the police could help me," she added. "I didn't know if anyone would be willing to go up against someone so powerful."
Kohler added that at the time she cowered from talking about the incident, telling ABC News, "by saying it out loud, it made it more real."
"I just bottled it up and tried to never think about it again," she said.
While Kohler initially wrote in her Facebook post that she did not tell anyone about what happened, her best friend at the time recently came forward saying she recalls a conversation where Kohler confided in her that something had happened to her with Ratner.
"Since this has become such a big deal and so much news is going on about it … my best friend at the time did recall a conversation that we had," Kohler said. "She talked to my lawyers and was able to tell them about a conversation that we did have shortly after that time period."
She added that she has been inspired by the recent wave of women who have spoken up about sexual harassment and misconduct in Hollywood, sparking a nationwide conversation in recent months and shedding light to how widespread of an issue it is.
"The only reason I'm here is because I want other women to tell their stories," she said. "The time is now. And there's a safe place to tell them."
Kohler's attorney, Robbie Kaplan, told ABC News that she believes the lawsuit filed against Kohler was part of an attempt by Ratner to "send a message to other women."
"To try to stop exactly what you heard Melanie talk about," Kaplan added. "To stop other women from speaking."
"We're here to send a very strong message that it's not going to stop Melanie from speaking," Kaplan added. "And it's not going to stop other women from speaking."
Singer, Ratner's attorney, denied that that the lawsuit is part of an attempt to silence women, telling ABC News in a statement, "it is nonsense that the defamation lawsuit filed against Ms. Kohler is a tactic of 'trying to silence women.' No such thing is occurring."
Eric A. Seitz, Ratner's attorney based in Hawaii, where the suit was filed, reiterated Singer's statement.
"Before Ms. Kaplan ascribes motives to me she better do her homework," Seitz told ABC News in a statement. "And if she wants to practice law in a court in Hawaii she should save her comments for the courtroom and not attempt to try the case in the media."
Kohler added that she is willing to tell her story in court if she has to.
"If I have to risk my life, and what I've worked so hard for … to be the voice that helps other women come forward, then I am prepared to do that," Kohler said.
Kaplan added that if the lawsuit does go to court, "we're prepared."
"We have the resources … to fight back," Kaplan said. "I've done this before in my career, and I will do it again."
Kohler said she hopes that by coming forward, she will empower other women to not be afraid either.
"I just want women to feel comfortable talking about stuff like this," she said. "It's scary, especially when the person that you're scared of is more powerful than you … has more money than you."
"When everything feels like it's stacked against you," Kohler said. "I want women to have the courage to speak out anyway. Because there will be people that can help them."
ABC News' Michael Rothman contributed to this report