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Tonya Cooley’s full lawsuit published, says she filed complaint in May 2010

Tonya Cooley’s lawsuit against MTV, Bunim-Murray Productions, and fellow cast members Kenny Santucci and Evan Starkman, who she says raped her with a toothbrush, reveals that Tonya filed a formal complaint a year and a half ago, and may have attempted to resolve her complaint without suing.

That provides evidence that counters some of the arguments being made by those who want to immediately dismiss Tonya because of her past behavior or because they automatically doubt and judge women who make claims about sexual assault.

While the lawsuit, which is below and was published by The Hollywood Reporter, was filed Oct. 27, it says that on May 7, 2010, Tonya filed a complaint with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, amending those on June 20 and July 19, 2010, and “alleged unlawful termination, harassment, failure to prevent discrimination or retailiation, retaliation and sexual assault.”

It also says tht her statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit was Oct. 28, 2011, which explains why the lawsuit was filed last week.

One interesting side effect of the lawsuit, if it goes in front of a judge, is that it may decide issues related to truly insane cast contracts.

The paper notes that Tonya’s lawsuit treats her as an MTV and Bunim-Murray employee, which of course for all practical purposes she is, even though The Real World’s cast contract, (and presumably a similar one used for The Challenge shows) says that cast members aren’t performers or employees–in addition to saying that they may be sexually assaulted or raped.

Anyway, THR’s analysis says Tonya…

“is suing for sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination and other violations of labor law,” and “the allegations are significant enough that before the lawsuit was filed, the parties entered into an agreement to toll the statute of limitations, which Bradley Boyer, an attorney at Ropers, Majeski, Kohn & Bentley, says suggests an internal investigation by the network and some attempts by the parties to resolve the matter before the allegations went public.In the complaint, Cooley repeatedly states either the agreement she signed with MTV was an employment agreement or that her relationship with the network could be deemed as an employer/employee relationship by California labor code.”

Tonya’s lawsuit also says that, besides suffering “severe emotional distress,” she was hurt financially, and says that Bunim-Murray “provided unliminted alcoholic beverges while providing limited amounts of food” in order “to encourage the participants to engage in scandalous behavior that would increase viewer ratings.”

As to the alleged sexual assualt, it says that the morning after passing out drunk, Tonya “noticed that she was sore in her vagina and had lacerations/rash like abrasions on her labia” that she “assumed…were some sort of rash caused by her partiicpation” in the challenges.”

The suit doesn’t specify the exact timeline, but says that Tonya “and other cast members formally reported Defendants Santucci and Starkman’s sexual assault” at some point.

Here’s the full lawsuit:

Update: Bunim/Murray said they “found Tonya Cooley’s claims to be completely baseless.”

The lawsuit was settled out of court in 2012.


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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.


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