Biden wants military commanders out of the process for investigating sexual assault cases

Biden infrastructure
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about his $2 trillion infrastructure plan during an event to tout the plan at Carpenters Pittsburgh Training Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., March 31, 2021.

President Joe Biden wants to pull military commanders from the process of investigating and prosecuting sexual assault cases.

The move would be a major change in how the military handles sexual crimes, which currently fall under the normal chain of command. An independent commission and Biden’s Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin both endorsed assigning the cases to special prosecutors who can operate independently of the military hierarchy.

“Sexual assault is an abuse of power and an affront to our shared humanity,” Mr. Biden said, according to the New York Times. “And sexual assault in the military is doubly damaging because it also shreds the unity and cohesion that is essential to the functioning of the U.S. military and to our national defense.”

Congress would need to pass a new to alter the military’s procedures.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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Uber and Lyft face up to 1,000 lawsuits claiming drivers sexually assaulted or harassed passengers, sometimes when the passengers were asleep

Uber sign
  • A California law firm plans to file up to 1,000 sexual assault lawsuits against Uber and Lyft, KPIX reported.
  • Lawyers from Levin Simes Abrams said some cases involve reports of drivers assaulting sleeping women.
  • The firm has called for mandatory surveillance cameras in cars to deter assaults.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Uber and Lyft could face nearly 1,000 individual lawsuits claiming that drivers sexually assaulted and harassed passengers, lawyers at firm Levin Simes Abrams told KPIX Wednesday.

The San Francisco-based law firm recently filed 85 lawsuits against Uber, mostly in San Francisco County Superior Court, with 321 cases pending, and filed more than 20 lawsuits against Lyft, with 517 cases pending, lawyers told KPIX.

About one third of those cases represented California residents, firm partners Rachel Abrams and Laurel Simes also told KRON in a separate interview on Wednesday.

Abrams and Simes told KRON that the 85 cases filed against Uber would not be joined together in a class-action lawsuit, because the details and severity of each case varied significantly.

The lawyers told KRON that hundreds of women came forward with claims of sexual assault and harassment after the firm took on its first case against Uber in 2019. In some cases, the women claimed drivers assaulted them when they were asleep or intoxicated, the lawyers said.

Firm attorney Meghan McCormick told KPIX in an interview that some drivers stand accused of ending rides early on the app “so it looks to anybody watching, or to Uber, as if they did exactly what they’re supposed to do.” They then drive the passenger “to a deserted place,” she said.

Abrams told KPIX that 99% of assaults “would be prevented if there was a camera.”

The ride-hailing apps announced in a joint statement in March that they would share data with each other on drivers who had been banned from their platforms for “the most serious safety incidents,” including sexual assaults and physical assaults that resulted in death.

In 2019, Uber released its first safety report, which said there had been 3,045 sexual assault reports on its US platform, out of 2.3 billion trips, between 2017 and 2018.

Uber said in a statement to KRON: “We remain steadfast in our commitment to support victims and help stop sexual violence by collaborating with experts, pioneering safety tech solutions, and setting the standard on transparency and accountability.”

Uber, Lyft, and Levin Simes Abrams did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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Airbnb deals with thousands of sexual-assault allegations every year, but manages to keep many out of the public eye, report says

A key in a door lock.
  • Ex-Airbnb employees told Bloomberg the company faces thousands of sexual-assault claims annually.
  • Bloomberg’s investigation revealed Airbnb has kept many of those cases out of the public eye.
  • Payouts, arbitration, and NDAs have helped Airbnb avoid scrutiny on safety issues, Bloomberg found.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Former Airbnb employees said that the company deals with thousands of sexual-assault allegations every year, and that the vast majority of them never make it into the public eye, Bloomberg reported this week.

Its investigation disclosed new details about how Airbnb has used a combination of monetary settlements and legal tactics – such as mandatory arbitration clauses and nondisclosure agreements – to avoid lawsuits and negative press dealing with a variety of safety problems.

The result, Bloomberg found, is that regulators, researchers, and the public have had little visibility into the scope of safety incidents involving Airbnb and that courts haven’t had the opportunity to determine who should be held legally liable.

Airbnb spends about $50 million a year trying to make things right for guests and hosts who’ve had bad experiences. One woman received a $7 million settlement after she said she was raped, Bloomberg reported.

The company told Bloomberg fewer than 0.1% of stays involve safety issues, that most payouts deal with claims of property damage, and that six-figure payouts are “exceptionally rare.” But with 193 million nights booked in 2020, that could mean that some 193,000 Airbnb stays could’ve involved safety incidents, by the company’s accounting.

Airbnb has dealt with a number of high-profile incidents over the years, including its first major scandal in 2011 after guests trashed a host’s home and a fatal shooting in Orinda, California, in 2019 that forced the company to crack down on party houses and ramp up efforts to keep guests and hosts safe.

Bloomberg’s reporting showed that Airbnb avoided scrutiny for serious incidents involving its guests, hosts, and listings, including numerous claims of sexual assault and a murder case.

Airbnb used to include a nondisclosure agreement in every case it settled, which prevented people from talking about their experiences, asking for more money, or suing the company, Bloomberg reported, adding that the company stopped the practice in 2017 as the #MeToo movement highlighted how NDAs often silence survivors of sexual assault.

An Airbnb spokesman, Ben Breit, told Insider that to the company’s knowledge, “There are no settlement agreements related to sexual assaults at listings prior to 2017.” (The $7 million settlement with the woman who was sexually assaulted was reached in 2017, after Airbnb stopped pursuing settlements with NDAs that prevent survivors from discussing details of their experiences, Bloomberg reported).

Airbnb has avoided lawsuits and public scrutiny over safety by including a mandatory arbitration clause in its terms of service. Such clauses prevent Airbnb guests and hosts from suing the company in court, where records are made public, instead forcing them to bring disputes through an arbitration system that’s funded by, and often favors, companies – and where proceedings are kept confidential.

That apparently led to only one sexual-assault case being filed against Airbnb, which the courts allowed to proceed because, they said, the company hadn’t done a thorough background check on the host, who had previously been accused of assault, Bloomberg found.

Airbnb declined to comment on its use of arbitration clauses.

Airbnb’s ability to reach settlements and avoid lawsuits, either dealing with sexual assault or other safety issues, has prevented courts from determining when and to what extent short-term rental-booking sites should be held liable for crimes involving its users or listings, Bloomberg reported.

Many cities have introduced regulations aimed at Airbnb and its competitors in recent years, and Airbnb has devoted additional resources to keeping users safe. But, Bloomberg said, as with Uber, Lyft, and other “platform” companies that initially skirted regulations as they grew rapidly, being able to obscure the extent of safety issues from public view has left regulators lagging far behind.

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A legislative intern who accused an Idaho lawmaker of rape said she was harassed by right-wing lawmakers and activists

Aaron von Ehlinger
Idaho state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, left, sits next to his attorney while waiting for a legislative ethics committee to begin, Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Boise, Idaho.

  • An intern who accused an Idaho lawmaker of rape said she was harassed by right-wing lawmakers and activists, the AP reported.
  • Former Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger resigned last week after a state ethics committee unanimously voted to recommend expelling him.
  • One state lawmaker shared the woman’s name and photo, calling her allegations a “liberal smear job.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A 19-year-old legislative intern who accused a former Idaho lawmaker of rape said she was harassed by right-wing lawmakers and activists after she reported the incident, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

In March, an intern reported that then-GOP Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger raped her in his apartment after they went to a restaurant in Boise, Idaho.

The Boise Police Department launched an investigation into the incident shortly after. Von Ehlinger denied he assaulted her and said they had consensual sex.

A legislative ethics committee unanimously voted to recommend expelling von Ehlinger for demonstrating “conduct unbecoming” of a lawmaker. He resigned before the committee could vote on his removal.

After the intern, who was referred to as Jane Doe, reported the incident, GOP state Rep. Priscilla Giddings identified the intern by name and used a photo of her in a newsletter, describing the sexual allegations as a “liberal smear job,” the AP reported.

“The secretaries let me know that Giddings had done that and they were showing me the article, and my life is crashing before my eyes,” the intern told the AP.

GOP state Rep. Heather Scott filed a request to obtain a copy of the police report of the incident.

“Members of a far-right, anti-government activist group tried to follow and harass the young woman after she was called to testify in a legislative public ethics hearing,” according to the AP report.

“I can take criticism. I can take people laying out their opinion on me,” the intern told the AP. “But this, it’s just overwhelming.”

The intern told the AP that she first worked at the Idaho Statehouse under the state government’s high school “page” program. She returned as an intern following graduation, and she agreed to a dinner with von Ehlinger in hopes to network.

After the dinner, the intern said von Ehlinger brought her back to his apartment because he said he had forgotten something, where she said he pinned her down and forced her to perform oral sex even though she had said “no,” the AP reported.

The woman told the AP that von Ehlinger had a “collection of guns” so she felt “fight or flight was never an option.” She said she tried to divert her attention during the alleged rape by getting “fixated on his curtains because they were bright red.”

“I named them ‘American red’ in my head, because it was bright like the stripes in the flag,” she told the AP. “I just stared at it … I will never forget how disgusting I felt.”

The woman reported the incident two days later and the state ethics committee made the incident public in April after announcing a public hearing would be held.

After the newsletter with her name and picture was distributed, the intern told the AP that she still returned to work, but “nobody had the humanity to even look me in the eye, like I brought shame.”

“They made it seem as if everything I do is suspicious,” she said.

Despite the harassment from right-wing activists, as well as tensions within the statehouse itself, the intern said she will continue to ensure the statehouse will enact policies to prevent what happened to her from happening again.

“This has all been pushed at me against my will after my repeated attempts at ‘No,'” she told AP. “But I’m taking my voice back. It’s mine, it’s not theirs.”

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A US Air Force general is facing court-martial for the first time ever. He has been charged with sexual assault

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. William T. Cooley
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. William T. Cooley

  • A US Air Force general is being court-martialed for the first time in the history of the service.
  • The charge is linked to allegations of sexual assault against a civilian during a 2018 off-duty incident.
  • The Air Force said it is unclear at this time when the court-martial will take place.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A US Air Force two-star general is facing court-martial in a first for the Air Force, the service said Wednesday.

A sexual assault charge against Air Force Maj. Gen. William Cooley, former commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory, has been referred to court-martial, Air Force Materiel Command said in a statement.

“After a comprehensive review of all of the evidence from the investigation and the Article 32 preliminary hearing, I’ve informed Maj. Gen. Cooley of my decision to move his case to general court-martial,” Gen. Arnold Bunch, the AFMC commander, said.

“I can assure you this was not a decision made lightly, but I believe it was the right decision,” he added.

The sexual assault charge against the general is tied to an off-duty incident in 2018 in which Cooley allegedly made undesired sexual advances, specifically kissing and touching, toward a civilian woman in New Mexico, the Air Force said.

Cooley was fired from his position at the research lab in January of last year following an investigation into the incident, and he was charged under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice last November following further review. The case then proceeded to an Article 32 hearing in February, and now the general is headed to a court-martial.

Air Force Materiel Command spokesman Derek Kaufman, as well as the Air Force public affairs office, confirmed to Insider that this was the first time in Air Force history a general officer has faced this type of trial.

The Air Force emphasized in its statement on the decision to proceed to court-martial that just as is true for civilian trials, Cooley is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Insider was unable to reach Cooley’s legal team for comment.

The decision to refer Cooley to court-martial were first reported by

Cooley is not the first Air Force general officer to face allegations of sexual misconduct, but none of those cases moved to a general court-martial. The Air Force declined to speculate on why this case is moving forward when others did not.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Rachel VanLandingham, a former judge advocate who now teaches law, told Task & Purpose in November that general officers “don’t want to prosecute each other because it’s this old boy chummy network.” But that could be changing.

President Joe Biden’s secretary of defense, retired four-star general Lloyd Austin, has made combating sexual assault in the military a priority. One of his first acts after taking office was to order a review of how the military handles these kinds of cases.

As for Cooley’s case, “the Air Force trial judiciary will identify a senior military judge and coordinate timing and venue for the court-martial proceeding,” the Air Force explained, adding that “jurors, or court members, must either be officers of higher rank, or equivalent grade but with an earlier date of rank to the accused.”

Air Force public affairs officials told Insider that it is currently unclear exactly when the court-martial will take place.

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A Boston patrol cop allegedly abused a 12-year-old in 1995. Last year the victim reported that his daughter was abused by the same cop, who kept his badge despite an investigation finding he likely committed the crime.

Boston police
A Boston police car sits outside the Long Wharf Marriott hotel in Boston on March 12, 2020.

  • A former Boston patrolman is facing charges for allegedly sexually assaulting minors.
  • The Boston Police Department knew of allegations since 1995, the Boston Globe reported.
  • Last summer, six minors came forward with new allegations of abuse against Patrick M. Rose Sr.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Boston Police Department knew its union leader had previous allegations of sexual assault against a minor before a man and his daughter went to a police station last summer to report she had been molested, the Boston Globe reported.

In 1995, the father had also alleged Patrick M. Rose Sr. assaulted him when he was 12 years old. The police department at the time filed a criminal complaint against Rose and investigated the accusations. They found that it was likely that Rose had committed a crime.

The boy was reportedly pressured to recant his story and the criminal investigation was dropped in 1996, but a police internal affairs investigation continued and found that Rose broke the law.

Additionally, court records showed that after the criminal case was dropped, Rose’s abuse of the boy continued and also “escalated,” but the department has not said what disciplinary action if any was taken.

Despite this, he was still able to keep his badge and work as a patrolman for 21 more years, and also served as the head of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association from 2014 until he retired in 2018, the Globe reported.

Rose was arrested in August of last year after the daughter’s allegations. Since then, five more people have come forward with allegations against him.

Mass Live reported last August that the girl, now 14, alleged she was repeatedly assaulted by Rose between the ages of 7 and 12.

He’s now in jail and faces 33 counts of sexual abuse. The six victims range from 7 to 16 years old.

Three of the victims who came forward said Rose assaulted them in the 1990s and another said the assault took place in recent years, Mass Live reported.

“My client maintains his innocence to all of the charges that have been brought against him and he maintains his innocence to what was alleged to have transpired back in 1995,” his attorney, William J. Keefe, told the Globe.

The Boston Police Department did not reply to Insider’s request for comment at the time of publication.

The Globe learned that despite the known allegations and internal review results, Rose was still allowed contact with children in his role, in some cases being dispatched to assist minors in sexual assault cases.

In 1999 he was sent to help a 14-year-old girl who called police crying, reporting that she’d been raped. He was also the arresting officer in a 2006 child sex assault case.

“What we’re describing here is an example of an institutional and systemic failure,” former Boston police lieutenant Tom Nolan told the Globe. “The department had a responsibility to ensure that this individual was no longer employed in the ranks of the Boston Police Department.”

Rose is currently being held in the Berkshire County Jail on $200,000 cash bail.

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Pakistan’s leader blamed a rise in rape cases on how women dress, saying ‘vulgarity’ has ‘consequences’ and men lack ‘willpower’

Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan
Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, said in April that the country was using a system intended to surveil terrorists to monitor the coronavirus.

  • Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan suggested the way women dress is to blame for rape.
  • “If you keep on increasing vulgarity, it will have consequences,” Khan said on Monday.
  • Khan’s remarks have sparked widespread criticism, including from his ex-wife.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is facing allegations of victim-blaming after attributing a rise in rape cases to how women dress.

“Not every man has willpower. If you keep on increasing vulgarity, it will have consequences,” Khan said during a television interview on Monday, per the New York Times, prompting widespread backlash. The Pakistani leader said women should adhere to “purdah,” referring to a concept involving women wearing modest or concealing clothing and the segregation of the sexes.

Human rights groups and even Khan’s first wife have condemned his remarks.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said Khan’s comments showed “a baffling ignorance of where, why and how rape occurs, but it also lays the blame on rape survivors,” per Reuters.

Jemima Goldsmith, a British heiress and Khan’s ex-wife, took to Twitter to decry his comments.

“I remember years ago being in Saudi Arabia and an elderly woman in an abaya & niqab was lamenting the fact that when she went out she was followed & harassed by young men. The only way to get rid of them was to take her face covering OFF. The problem is not how women dress!” Goldsmith tweeted.

In a separate tweet, Goldsmith said, “I’m hoping this is a misquote/ mistranslation. The Imran I knew used to say, “Put a veil on the man’s eyes not on the woman.”

Khan’s office released a statement that said his comments had been taken out of context and misinterpreted. “The Prime Minister said that our strict anti-rape laws alone will not be able to stem the rise in sex crime. The whole society has to fight it together including lowering exposure to temptation,” the statement said.

In 2020, thousands of Pakistanis flooded the streets after a police official in Lahore said a woman who was raped on a deserted highway was partly to blame. The Pakistani government responded to the outcry by passing a measure that said men convicted of rape could be sentenced to chemical castration. Still, rape convictions in Pakistan are rare. Fewer than 3% of sexual assault or rape cases in Pakistan result in a conviction, per the Karachi-based non-governmental organization War Against Rape.

Human rights groups have said that rape is an underreported crime in Pakistan largely because women who come forward are ostracized and treated like criminals.

Human Rights Watch says “violence against women and girls-including rape, so-called honor killings, acid attacks, domestic violence, and forced marriage-remains a serious problem” in Pakistan, adding that “Pakistani activists estimate that there are about 1,000 ‘honor’ killings every year.”

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A ‘cadre’ of soldiers has been suspended following a female soldier’s sexual assault allegations at an Army base in Oklahoma

fort sill army base
In this June 17, 2014 file photo, a vehicle drives by a sign at Scott Gate, one of the entrances to Fort Sill, in Fort Sill, Okla.

  • Soldiers were suspended at Fort Sill in Oklahoma following a report of sexual assaults.
  • The Intercept reported a female soldier accused 22 troops of being involved in the assaults.
  • Reports of sexual assault in the military have risen sharply in the past two years.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After a report of sexual assaults, a “cadre” of soldiers at Fort Sill in Oklahoma have been suspended while an investigation is carried out, the commanding general of the Army base said.

A female soldier at the base reported on March 27 that “she was the victim of sexual assault involving Fort Sill cadre members,” Major General Ken Kamper said in a statement Thursday. He said the allegations were immediately reported to law enforcement and investigators began conducting interviews.

“This soldier, who came forward with allegations of sexual assault, is absolutely safe,” Kamper said. “We’re proud of the courage she displayed in coming forward with these allegations.

Read more: 5 key lessons a retired Army sergeant picked up from his 34-year military career that have guided him as a successful entrepreneur

The statement did not say how many soldiers were accused or suspended, but a military official told The Intercept allegations were made against 22 soldiers and include multiple incidents of assault.

The official also told The Intercept investigators were looking into a video of one of the incidents that was being passed around the base, but a US Army spokesperson denied that investigators had such a video.

The group implicated in the allegations was “suspended from their normal duties” and “removed from any trainee environment,” Kamper said. They typically were involved in training new troops. The woman who came forward was a trainee.

Sexual assault in the military is an ongoing issue, with assaults rising sharply in the past two years, Insider’s Sophia Ankel reported.

As one of his first acts after being confirmed in January, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a review of how the department handles reports of sexual assault.

The issue was given additional attention last year after US Army soldier Vanessa Guillen was murdered at her base in Fort Hood, Texas. Guillen’s family members said she had told them she experienced sexual harassment, but was too afraid to report it.

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Those who get drunk on their own can’t be considered ‘mentally incapacitated’ in rape cases, Minnesota Supreme Court says

Paul Thissen
Justice Paul Thissen in a Feb. 25, 2016 file photo.

  • Rape victims who get drunk on their own aren’t “mentally incapacitated,” Minnesota high court said.
  • “Mentally incapacitated” applies when someone gets drunk without their consent, the court said.
  • Sexual assault survivors and advocates decried the ruling but said they weren’t surprised.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

An individual who gets drunk on their own can not be qualified as “mentally incapacitated” in a rape case, the Minnesota Supreme Court said in a ruling released Wednesday.

The ruling comes in the case of man who was accused of sexually assaulting a woman he met following an incident where she was denied entry to a bar for being too drunk.

Francois Momolu Khalil was appealing the 2019 case in which he was convicted of third-degree criminal sexual misconduct because the woman was considered “mentally incapacitated.”

Court documents from the appeal said Khalil and two of his friends invited the woman and a friend to a party but instead took them to a private home where the woman, who was only identified by her initials, blacked out.

She woke up to find Khalil raping her. After telling him to stop, she then passed out again.

In a decision written by Justice Paul Thissen, the state’s supreme court said that the definition of “mentally incapacitated” – which was used by the lower court – “does not include a person who is voluntarily intoxicated by alcohol,” meaning that the designation only applies when the alcohol was given to someone without their knowledge.

This “unreasonably strains and stretches the plain text of the statute,” they added.

The ruling has garnered criticism from sexual assault survivors and advocates, including Abby Honold, who told MPR News that the language of the statute has always been a loophole that makes it difficult for sexual assault survivors to bring cases forward.

“There are a lot of people who are told when they report now, and when their case is referred to a prosecutor that essentially their sexual assault was technically legal. It’s always so heartbreaking to have to hear that from yet another survivor who came forward and reported,” Honold told the outlet.

In response to the ruling, state rep. Kelly Moller said she is sponsoring legislation that says consent can’t be given if a victim is incapacitated, even if they voluntarily took drugs or alcohol.

“Victims who are intoxicated to the degree that they are unable to give consent are entitled to justice. Our laws must clearly reflect that understanding, and today’s Supreme Court ruling highlights the urgency lawmakers have to close this and other loopholes throughout our CSC law,” Rep. Moller said.

“Prosecutors, survivors, and advocates have identified the problem and the CSC Working Group did incredibly tough work to identify the solutions. Minnesotans who experience unthinkable trauma deserve to see the Legislature take action on this immediately.”

Khalil is serving a five-year prison sentence but his lawyer, Will Walker, told MPR News that he anticipates he will be released soon.

Insider has reached out to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office for comment.

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YouTube is temporarily demonetizing David Dobrik’s channels following a rape allegation against his former Vlog Squad cohort Dom Durte

david dobrik
David Dobrik speaks onstage during Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Awards on March 13, 2021.

YouTube has temporarily blocked David Dobrik and now former Vlog Squad member Dominykas Zeglaitis, also known as Durte Dom, from making money off ads on its platform following a rape allegation against Zeglaitis.

“We have strict policies that prohibit sexual harassment on YouTube and take allegations of sexual assault very seriously. We have temporarily suspended monetization on David Dobrik and Durte Dom channels for violating our Creator Responsibility policy,” a YouTube spokesperson told Insider.

YouTube said it had suspended monetization for three channels operated by Dobrik – David Dobrik, David Dobrik Too, and “Views,” a video podcast co-hosted by Dobrik and Jason Nash – as well as Zeglaitis’ personal channel.

On March 16, Insider’s Kat Tenbarge reported that a woman who had appeared in a 2018 video about group sex with members of the Vlog Squad said she was raped by Zeglaitis and that the video’s portrayal of the sex as consensual was inaccurate.

After Dobrik initially sought to distance himself from the allegations in a video last week, he then posted a second video on Monday apologizing for not originally taking the allegations seriously and saying “I fully believe the woman.”

Zeglaitis has not commented publicly on the allegations and declined to comment when Insider contacted him in early March.

The fallout has been swift, with a wave of advertisers, sponsors, and investors, distancing themselves from the group.

Dobrik’s podcast “Views” has lost sponsors including Honey, DoorDash, and HelloFresh, while EA Sports, which once gave Dobrik a Lamborghini, said it has no future plans to work with him, and SeatGeek is also “reviewing” its sponsorship. Dispo, a photo-sharing app cofounded by Dobrik, has also lost investors including Lime CEO Wayne Ting and venture capital firm Spark Capital.

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