*Editor’s note: this story contains discussions about sexual violence, threats, and intimidation. Please read with care.
A month after publicly alleging a harrowing experience with Nicki Minaj and her husband Kenneth Petty, Jennifer Hough is continuing to share more details about the traumatic assault against Hough for which Petty was convicted in 1995, as well as allegations of recent threats and harassment against her by the celebrity couple. In a new interview on daytime talk show The Real, Hough and her lawyer Tyrone Blackburn sat down with hosts Garcelle Beauvais and Adrienne Houghton to discuss the lasting impact of the assault on her life, as well as her lawsuit against the couple.
On Wednesday, 22nd September, Hough appeared exclusively on The Real and spoke candidly about the various interactions that she'd had with Petty and Minaj over the course of the past several years. Twenty-six years ago, Petty was arrested and convicted of attempted first-degree rape after assaulting Hough when they were teenagers, resulting in a prison sentence of 18-54 months in a state facility, of which he served four years. When details about the assault were made public, Hough said she was devastated by the way the story was mischaracterised.
According to Hough, the situation unfolded on what should have been a normal school day. On the way to the bus stop, she alleges that 16-year-old Petty held her up using what she thought as a gun before taking her to a nearby house and raped her, staring at himself in the mirror and proclaiming that he was "the man" all the while. He was arrested the same day, leading to the first marks on his criminal record; a manslaughter charge and almost seven years behind bars would follow in 2006.
"It was like reliving it again because it was a lie, it wasn't true," Hough told The Real hosts of Minaj's social media claims about the assault. "I just felt woman to woman that was wrong of [Nicki]. You have 150-something million followers, and they all believed it. It hurt coming from another woman...just the girl thing.”
After trying to resume a sense of normalcy in the years following the assault, Petty's failure to register as a sex offender in California in 2020 led to an onslaught of new issues because it dredged up more drama related to the traumatic incident. Hough was already frightened by Minaj's October 2019 announcement of her marriage to Petty — “I was so afraid of being known as the person he violated, and I didn’t want that," she said. "You know, it’s Nicki Minaj." — and as the world learned more about the details of Petty's past, Hough's name and story quickly became fodder for hashtags and gossip blogs.
After public interest reached a fever pitch, Hough alleges that Minaj and her team approached Hough in March 2020 with requests (and later, threats) to recant Hough’s testimony about the assault. On The Real, Hough said the rapper herself had called her on the phone, and the alleged conversation included offers to fly Hough and her family to Los Angeles in exchange for "helping" Minaj and Kenneth out in their situation. When she declined, Hough claims, more attempts to sway her followed, some of them offering $20,000 (£14,575) in cash and others offering what she perceived as blatant threats. In the most recent incident, she said that an associate of the couple sent her a particularly frightening message: "[You] should've taken the money because they're going to use it to put on your head."
Hough filed a lawsuit against the couple in August 2021 alleging harassment, witness intimidation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Initially, the news of the lawsuit was unironically buried by headlines discussing Minaj's viral coronavirus vaccine controversy; the "Roman's Revenge" rapper became the subject of heated conversation when her odd string of tweets pertaining to concerns about the vaccine sparked up a conversation about misinformation in the age of pandemic. When the lawsuit finally hit social media, Minaj's fandom quickly tried to discredit Hough's claims of harassment and even attempted to poke holes in her story. Minaj has maintained her husband's innocence and even claimed that Hough, at one point, did in fact write a letter recanting the accusations. Nonetheless, Hough's still standing her ground. Her goal with this legal move is to show the couple and other people wielding their power at will that actions have consequences.
"[I want] to let them know that they were wrong and that you can’t do this to people," said Hough. "What they did to me and my family wasn’t okay. It wasn’t right. And it doesn’t matter how much money you have, it doesn’t matter what your status is — you can’t intimidate people to make things go better for you. And that’s what they did."
"I want my daughters to know that as they grow, as they experience life, as they come in contact with friends, family, and strangers, that they’ll have the strength to know that they have a voice, and they should use it," she concluded. "And don’t ever let anybody try to silence them.”
R29Unbothered has reached out to Minaj's camp for comment and will update this story with any response.