Over the weekend, actress Eliza Dushku bravely revealed that she had been molested while filming True Lies at age 12. It’s one of the saddest #MeToo stories, and one that she almost didn’t share with the public.
What caused her to break her silence was learning that the man she named, Joel Kramer, still works in the industry. That he apparently still works with young girls.
Jamie Lee Curtis, who starred in True Lies, is speaking out in response to Dushku’s statement. And, meanwhile, two more accusations have been leveled at Joel Kramer.
Eliza Dushku is known for her roles on shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse and in films like Bring It On. And Tru Calling.
Whether you’re as big a fan as I am or not, reading her account of being gradually groomed and then assaulted as a preteen by the film’s stunt coordinator was heartbreaking.
Hearing that she was “accidentally” injured on set after an adult friend of hers confronted Joel Kramer, who was also responsible for her safety, is a grim reminder that the stakes of reporting sexual assault can be very, very high.
Joel Kramer, the man she accuses of these sickening acts, is still working in the industry. Several years back, he worked regularly on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. And he even worked on the pilot episode of Star Trek Discovery.
It was only when Eliza Dushku realized that he was still responsible for people’s safety — for children’s safety — that she decided to speak out.
At the time of the alleged sexual assault, Eliza Dushku did tell people, including the woman who acted as her legal guardian on the set. That woman says that she reported it to someone “in authority,” but to no avail.
Penning a lengthy essay in The Huffington Post, Jamie Lee Curtis shares that Eliza Dushku told her about this, only many years after the events.
“[Dushku] had shared that story with me privately a few years ago. I was shocked and saddened then and still am today.”
She talks about the particular creepiness that comes when an alleged sexual predator is also in charge of people’s physical safety.
“What compounds the difficulty here is that the stunt coordinator in question was literally in charge of our lives, our safety. Stunts always require an enormous amount of trust and on that movie in particular we all were often suspended by wires and harnesses, very high in the air.”
Eliza Dushku mentions in her own post that her adult friend confronting Joel Kramer was soon followed by Eliza being hospitalized with broken ribs. She does not consider that a coincidence.
Jamie Lee Curtis acknowledges the power given to stunt coordinators.
“In my case, I was suspended under a helicopter by a wire, holding onto the hand of the man who is now being accused of abuse.”
If you’ll recall, Eliza says that he gained her trust and that of her parents, taking her to a hotel with a totally plausible-sounding explanation.
But she says that he put on a movie, emerged naked from the bathroom, and climbed on top of her where she lay on the bed. She was 12, he was 36.
For his part, Joel Kramer has denied the accusations, speaking to Deadline and claiming:
“These are outlandish, manipulated lies. I never sexually molested her. I’m sick to my stomach. It’s not true. I think she’s making this up in her imagination.”
His statement continues:
“This is all lies. Lies, lies, lies. This is just crazy. I treated her like a daughter. We all looked out for her.”
We’re not sure how long those denials are going to hold up, because Eliza Dushku was the first to speak out … but not the only one.
Deadline reports that two more women accuse Joel Kramer of sexual assault.
A stuntwoman who worked for Kramer apparently invited her younger sister and her sister’s friend, both 10th graders in 1997, to the set where she was working. This is when Kramer allegedly lured the girls out to go swimming.
Laura Albert says that Kramer then “pulled his dick out and said, ‘You cannot handle this.'” And then allegedly swam towards the girls.
Albert continues, alleging: “My sister ended up leaving and she left her friend there with Joel. Joel had sex with the 16-year-old girl. She was 16. He was 39. His room number was 424.”
Joel claims that he didn’t know the girl’s age, that he was haunted by the knowledge … while pointing out that she was legally old enough to consent in that state.
Another stuntwoman has come forward but remained anonymous, accusing Joel Kramer of having assaulted her in the late ’70s or early ’80s.
She says that a group of stunt performers were getting together for drinks, and she ended up riding in Joel’s vehicle, where the alleged assault took place.
“Instead of driving me to the other place, he drove us up into the hills on the south side of Ventura Boulevard into a quiet residential area. He pulled his vehicle over, unzipped his pants, pulled out his penis.”
She clarifies that she was not looking to date him. They were only supposed to drive to meet up with their friends. She describes the alleged assault:
“He grabbed me by the back of my head and forced my face down onto his penis and came in my mouth. He then released my head and cleaned himself up.”
If her memory of the incident seems fuzzy, we should note that trauma can make certain details painfully clear in your memory, but make other memories seem vague. (Some argue that impaired memory of trauma is a survival instinct)
“I must have [cleaned up] as well. I really don’t remember if he gave me tissues. I cannot remember if words were exchanged of any type, but he did drive me to the other place, where the group had gone.”
Reporting sexual assault is bad now, but it was worse in the ’70s and ’80s.
“I did not tell anyone, because I was frightened, scared and ashamed. I also knew that if I were to report this to the stunt group, the police or SAG, I would have no chance in a career as a stunt woman.”
Joel Kramer calls this accusation a “fabrication.”
Kramer has been in the business for decades. We can’t help but wonder how many more women will come forward with horror stories.