*Editor’s note: this story contains discussions about sexual violence, threats and intimidation.
Jennifer Hough — who was assaulted by Nicki Minaj’s husband, Kenneth Petty — is publicly speaking out and taking new legal action after several months of alleged harassment, threats and intimidation from Minaj, Petty and their associates.
According to the New York State Sex Offender registry, in 1995, Petty was convicted of first-degree attempted rape after he assaulted Hough at knifepoint when both he and Hough were minors. Hough told The Daily Beast the nightmare surrounding the case was newly reignited in March 2020 after Petty was arrested in California for failing to register as a sex offender. Since then, Hough says in the interview, the couple has enlisted several people known to both them and Hough to try and force her to recant her claims about the assault.
“I’ve been feeling completely bullied — but bullied by the world, almost,” Hough told The Daily Beast. “Only because of a statement that was made by someone who just happens to do music. You know? Someone who happens to be famous.”
Most recently, The Daily Beast reports, a male acquaintance of Hough’s made a post on Facebook Stories in which he appeared to threaten her life (The Daily Beast reviewed the video and related police report). Hugh’s male acquaintance grew up in the same Queens neighbourhood as Minaj, Petty and Hough, and had allegedly spent months last year trying to convince Hough to recant.
According to the lawsuit, Hough claims during the one time she and Minaj spoke one-on-one on the phone, the rapper said she’d “heard [Hough] was willing to help out” in Petty’s legal predicament. Hough says Minaj then offered to fly her out to Los Angeles, or to send her publicist to meet with Hough where she lived and draft a statement recanting. Hough says she declined both offers, but claims she told Minaj unequivocally: “Listen. I just need you to know, woman to woman, this really happened.”
Since the assault, Hough has tried to keep a low profile. But after years of avoiding speaking about the incident, she was finally forced to go public after news broke about Minaj and Petty’s relationship, and the fact that he was a convicted sex offender. In an attempt to launder her then-boyfriend’s image, The Daily Beast reports that Minaj claimed on Instagram in late 2018 that Petty had been a year younger than Hough and that they had been in a relationship. Hough gave a YouTube interview that year to clarify that this was not the case. Minaj, for her part, continued working to discredit Hough, claiming in 2019 on her Apple Music show Queen Radio that Petty had been “wrongly accused.”
Hough is currently suing Minaj and Petty for harassment, witness intimidation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other charges. The suit alleges that alongside an initial offer of $500,000 (£366,000) from Minaj and Petty’s camp, the same mutual acquaintance who recently allegedly threatened her, had also put Hough on the phone with Minaj in March and then offered her $20,000 (£14,700) in cash on the couple’s behalf.
Hough’s attorney, Tyrone Blackburn, told The Daily Beast that as a result of Minaj and Petty’s actions, Hough has had to move three times in a span of seven months, and quit her job out of fear of being found and attacked. “The Pettys (the pair got married in 2019) acted in concert to destroy Ms. Hough’s life, now they will be held accountable for their actions,” he said.
Sadly, this is not the first time Hough has been harassed over the situation. The Daily Beast reports that immediately following the assault back in 1995, under pressure from Petty’s friends, Hough was forced by her adoptive family to try and drop the charges. She says she was beaten by her family when she couldn't convince the judge, and then ultimately had to flee New York for fears of her own safety. Even when she returned home from the hospital just after the assault, Hough recalled in the interview that her adoptive mother told her: “Sorry you got raped, but you should have screamed.”
The incident and the ensuing havoc it wreaked on Hough’s life traumatised her so much that she still blames herself for it, and other forms of violence that she suffered afterward. “I don’t wear makeup,” she told The Daily Beast. “I refuse to look guys in their face if I see them in the street. It has affected my life a whole lot.”
Hough told The Daily Beast she hopes this lawsuit will encourage other women and girls who may have gone through a similar situation to stand up for themselves.
Representatives for Minaj and Petty did not immediately respond to R29Unbothered’s requests for comment.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please visit Rape Crisis or call their helpline on 0808 802 9999.