MTV settles with Tonya Cooley over Challenge rape lawsuit

MTV and The Real World Chicago cast member Tonya Cooley have settled a lawsuit in which she alleges she was raped during production of Challenge: The Ruins. The terms of the settlement are unknown.

Last fall, Tonya sued, claiming she was raped by Kenny and Evan with a toothbrush while she was unconscious and cameras rolled (read the full lawsuit). She wanted damages for sexual harassment and wrongful termination, among other things.

The Hollywood Reporter says that Viacom defended itself using “affirmative defenses including Cooley’s assumption of risk, consent, a waiver, a release and the argument that there were legitimate business reasons for sending her home — that she was removed from the show because ‘she violently struck another contestant.'” In much more ugly language, Viacom said Tonya:

“failed to avoid the injuries of which she complains. For example, while she was a contestant on The Ruins, Plaintiff was frequently intoxicated (to an extent far greater than other contestants), rowdy, combative, flirtatious and on multiple occasions intentionally exposed her bare breasts and genitalia to other contestants.”

And what, that behavior, however abhorrent it might be to some people, makes it okay for other contestants to penetrate her while she’s unconscious? Does this really claim that she “failed to avoid” being raped? I hope not, because that’s unconscionable.

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Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 37, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.