Pruitt also sued her former record label, Hollywood Records, and its parent company, the Walt Disney Co., alleging that they had failed to prevent the abuse. The suit alleges that the label compelled her to work with Thomas as her mentor and producer, and allowed him to be unsupervised, even though it knew or should have known that he was a sexual abuser.
“Unfortunately, these large companies are primarily concerned with sales, money and charts,” Pruitt said in a statement to Variety. “Too often they fall short of protecting the young talent that they are ‘supposed’ to be caretakers for. Time and time again we see people in positions of power fail us. I couldn’t be more disappointed in how Disney treats their underage talent like cash cows.”
— Jordan Pruitt (@JordansBlog) September 3, 2019
Disney and Hollywood Records did not comment on the complaint.
The suit represents a bombshell within the country music scene, where sexual misconduct allegations are still largely taboo even in the #MeToo era.
Thomas is a veteran Nashville producer. He got his start with Ronnie Milsap, and worked with BeBe and CeCe Winans before hitting it big with the Amy Grant single “Baby Baby.” Since the early 2000s, he has worked largely with teenaged female singers, including Pruitt. In 2013, he starred on “Chasing Nashville,” a short-lived Lifetime reality show that followed four girls striving for country music stardom.
The lawsuit was first filed on Aug. 14, using pseudonyms. Reached by Variety at that time, Thomas referred questions to his attorney. His attorney did not respond to a request for comment. An amended complaint with the true names attached was filed on Tuesday.
Pruitt signed with the label as a 14-year-old in 2005. She released two albums in 2007 and 2008. In her statement to Variety, she said that many in the Nashville music world fear the consequences of speaking up about sexual abuse.
“I am standing up and speaking out not only for myself, but for the countless victims across the world who have never been given the opportunity for justice,” Pruitt said. “It is extremely taboo for anyone to speak about sexual abuse, misconduct and exploitation of minors in the ordinarily conservative and genteel South. Over and above decorum, many fear the repercussions of coming forward for example (getting blacklisted from the industry, losing work, having YOUR reputation tarnished). To many victims, coming forward feels shameful. Even though the #metoo movement has been very powerful for many, there is still much work that needs to be done. No one should ever be punished for telling the truth and seeking justice, period.”
The suit claims that Thomas groomed Pruitt for abuse, controlling her entire professional life, cutting off contact with boys her own age, and putting her down with negative comments about her looks and talents. The suit alleges that he would also shower her with compliments, saying he loved her and that no one understood how “special” their relationship was.
According to the complaint, Thomas also groomed her mother, gaining her trust, which enabled him to spend time alone with Pruitt.
Pruitt alleges that the abuse began when she was 14, and continued until a week before her 16th birthday. She claims that it involved kissing and oral sex, and that Thomas took her virginity. She also alleges that on one occasion, she was drugged and anally penetrated. She alleges that the abuse occurred at the Staples Center, on soundstages at the Warner Bros. lot, in artists’ trailers, hotel rooms, and in parked cars.
According to Pruitt, Thomas told her that “their love was a secret.” She says that she only became fully aware of the abusive nature of the relationship last December.
Pruitt had disclosed in a Facebook post in December that she had been molested as a teenager, but she did not identify the abuser at the time.
“At fifteen this person had brainwashed me into thinking that the things that were happening were ‘natural’ and ‘okay,'” she wrote. “While I will spare you any of the mind-piercing details, I can honestly and unfortunately say that this man sexually abused me for almost two years of my life. I am a victim of child molestation because of him.”
In her statement, Pruitt said she hoped that as a result of the complaint, Disney and Hollywood Records would “spend their time and money on putting safeguards in place in order to protect the minors the are employing.”
Last week, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge granted a request from Pruitt’s attorney, Keith Davidson, to identify the parties in the suit.
“Jordan Pruitt, like far too many child stars, was exploited by the very people who should have been protecting her,” Davidson said in a statement. “Jordan’s innocence was robbed from her as she was systematically groomed, molested, and controlled by a predator employed by Disney, a company that sells happiness to children. Disney had a duty to protect Jordan from Keith Thomas, and failed at every step. Jordan can never get back the innocence that was stolen from her, nor can she erase the trauma of this tragedy, but she is committed to making sure no other young women fall victim to child predators employed and protected by one of the largest entertainment corporations in the world. Jordan is brave to find the courage to come forward to take on such a large conglomerate. She like so many victims with their own #metoo story must be supported. I am honored to represent Jordan.”
The suit also names Thomas’ company, Levosia Entertainment, as a defendant. Pruitt is now writing a book about her experience, “Abuse Anonymous.”Pruitt v Thomas (PDF)
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