“On The Record” Film Highlights Survivors of Russell Simmons’s Sexual Assault

"On The Record" Film Highlights Survivors of Russell Simmons’s Sexual Assault
“On the Record” chronicles not only Drew Dixon’s story but that of several other accusers—​Sil Lai Abrams, Sheri Sher—delving deeply into the ways women of colors’ voices are all too often silenced and ignored when reporting these crimes, and the cultural forces that pressure them to remain silent.

On April 21, HBO Max released the trailer for “On The Record,” an investigative documentary highlighting the stories of three courageous women who came forward with accusations of rape and sexual assault against Russell Simmons, co-founder of the hip-hop music label Def Jam Records. 

Directed and produced Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering—the team behind the by “The Invisible War” (2012) and “The Hunting Ground” (2015), highlighting sexual assault within the U.S. military and on college campuses, respectively—”On the Record” premiered at Sundance in January to rave reviews. It is set to premiere on HBO Max on May 27.

In November 2017, reports emerged that Simmons, 62, was accused of sexual misconduct and rape by several women who worked alongside him in the industry.

The following month, The New York Times interviewed music director Drew Dixon—the first woman to publicly share her heartbreaking experiences with Simmons. Dixon viewed Simmons as a mentor who offered her a job at Def Jam early in her career. Shortly after, Simmons allegedly raped Dixon and “exposed his erect penis to her.” 

“I didn’t tell that many people about what happened with Russell,” Dixon shares in the trailer.

In addition to Dixon’s initial accusation, the film also highlights the stories of journalist Sil Lai Abrams and “Mercedes Ladies” group member Sherri “Sheri Sher” Hines, both of whom also accuse Simmons of sexual misconduct or rape. (Altogether, Simmons also faces more than a dozen cases of sexual assault or sexual misconduct.)

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While the documentary aims to hold sexual assaulters like Simmons accountable for their actions and provide a national platform to discuss these issues, the producers also hope it showcases the voices of black women in the #MeToo Movement.

Ziering and Dick say the film is meant to be a voice for women who experienced similar circumstances, specifically Black women and other women of color, who are too often left out of #MeToo discussions—despite the movement being founded by Tarana Burke, a Black woman herself.

“He’s the king of hip-hop, the Black community will hate my guts,” Dixon said about her thinking before coming forward. “I didn’t want to let the culture down.” 

In that vein, “On the Record” tackles a much-needed topic: the harsh realities of being a Black woman in the music business, and the little attention they receive in the #MeToo Movement.

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Ashley Lynn Priore—a social entrepreneur, writer, public servant and innovative speaker—is the founder, president and CEO of Queen's Gambit, a national nonprofit using chess as a catalyst for change. Ashley is the author of Let's Learn Chess! and is currently completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Pittsburgh.