Washington Post didn't stand by reporter suspended over Kobe Bryant tweet when she was victim shamed for sexual assault allegation
Felicia Sonmez, who has been put on administrative leave for tweeting a story of allegation of rape against late NBA legend, was not supported by the paper when articles attacking her were published against her following her allegation of sexual assault in 2018
The Washington Post reporter, who was suspended by the paper on Sunday for tweeting a link to a story about rape allegation against Kobe Bryant hours after his death, is a sexual assault survivor. Felicia Sonmez, a respected political reporter at The Post, came forward about the assault in 2018 in the wake of the #MeToo movement and accused former Beijing bureau chief of The Los Angeles Times, Jonathan Kaiman, of sexual misconduct.
Sonmez's accusation came shortly after another accuser of Kaiman, Lara Tucker, wrote about her ordeal in a post on The Medium. Both Sonmez and Tucker were in Beijing at the time when the alleged assault occurred. Sonmez, who was in China at the time for language studies, was Kaiman's housemate.
The political reporter accused the former Times bureau chief of digitally penetrating her in public without her consent, and refusing to stop after she pushed him away.
Sonmez, in a letter to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China, stated that on the night of the assault she was very drunk, and the pair later had unprotected sex. "I am devastated by the fact that I was not more sober, so that I could say with absolute certainty whether what happened that night was rape," she wrote in the letter.
She detailed in the document that she gave Kaiman a ride on her scooter despite being inebriated — something she is "deeply ashamed of" — and added that "even though parts of the evening were consensual, while on the way, Jon escalated things in a way that crossed the line," Jezebel reported.
She wrote that at one point during the ride "Jon lifted my up my dress and began digitally penetrating me without my consent."
"I told him no but he forcefully continued until I was able to physically pull him away. He then began unbuckling his belt and pulling down his shorts. We were on a public street, it was dark and no one was around. Jon is much bigger than me, and it took me repeatedly telling him no and pushing him away for him to finally stop. Whenever I think about that night, it gives me chills to think of that moment and imagine what he would have done if I hadn’t been able to get him to stop."
After the pair arrived at the apartment, Kaiman, according to Sonmez, continued kissing her and attempted to unbuckle his own belt and take off his shorts despite she repeatedly refusing his advances. Sonmez, however, later went to his apartment upstairs.
"I don’t remember what was going through my head as I went upstairs, whether I wanted to take a nap or get some water or maybe make out. I am certain I did not go up there to have unprotected sex with Jon," Sonmez wrote in the letter. She completed her language studies in 2017.
Shortly after Sonmez's accusations, the Los Angeles Times launched an investigation into Kaiman, who was told in August 2018 to resign or be removed from the organization. He opted to resign.
Sonmez's recent suspension by the Washington Post was slammed by the newspaper's Guild on Monday. The editorial staff union, in its letter to Marty Baron, the newspaper's editor, and Tracy Grant, the managing editor for staff development and standards, also alleged that she did not receive the paper's support when she came out about her sexual assault ordeal. The union also accused the paper of controlling how Sonmez speaks on matters of sexual violence
"This is not the first time that The Post has sought to control how Felicia speaks on matters of sexual violence. Felicia herself is a survivor of assault who bravely came forward with her story two years ago," the letter continued.
"When articles attacking her were published in other outlets, The Post did not release a statement in support of one of its respected political reporters. Instead, management issued a warning letter against Felicia for violating The Post's vague and inconsistently enforced social media guidelines," it added. The union appeared to have been making a reference to Felicia's post about her sexual assault on Twitter.
After she posted about her alleged sexual assault on Twitter, Sonmez was victim shamed by a fellow journalist, Emily Yoffe, current contributing editor at the Atlantic, who claimed that Sonmez and Tucker's accusations were indicative of the excesses of the #MeToo movement.