The NYPD says they're investigating a rape that allegedly occurred in the bathroom at celebrity hotspot Happy Ending, despite officers' initial attempts to blame the victim. Pepper Ellett, 25, claims that when NYPD officers interviewed her at the hospital after she was administered a rape kit, one officer insinuated that she was "a party girl" and reminded her that "regrettable sex is not the same as rape."
In an interview with the NY Post, a Happy Ending "rep" tells the tabloid, "The CCTV tapes show clearly that the alleged victim was seen kissing at the bar with the employee and was seen entering the bathroom of her own free will. It shows a 90 percent chance it was consensual behavior."
Ellett was using the restroom at Happy Ending on the Lower East Side last Tuesday night when a man she believes to be an employee at the bar allegedly followed her inside and raped her. She suspects she was drugged, because she remembers very little of her time at Happy Ending, despite being careful not to drink too much because she had to work the next morning.
But NYPD officers who interviewed her the next day repeatedly questioned her account. According to Ellett, one officer with the NYPD's Special Victims Unit asked her, "Maybe you led him to believe it was okay in some way? If it's his word against yours it's gonna be years of an uphill legal battle, a lot more strife." Ellet says the officer "was basically deterring me from doing anything about it."
Yesterday an NYPD spokesman confirmed that the investigation is open, but also made a point of telling us that security camera footage obtained from inside the bar shows Ellett holding hands with the employee. The police spokesman also said investigators have yet to question the suspect because he has not surfaced at work, while also refusing to confirm that he was even employed at Happy Ending. But a spokesman for Happy Ending told us on Monday that "the employee in question was fired immediately that evening."
According to Ellett, the nurses who administered the rape kit confirmed that her injuries were consistent with sexual assault. "I have bruises all over my body," Ellett said.
Since Ellett made her allegations public this week, Happy Ending appears to have terminated its publicist, Nadine Johnson. In response to an inquiry today, the bar's former representative told us, "We are no longer handling press for Happy Ending. I have forwarded this inquiry along to the appropriate person who can reach out." We'll update if we hear back.
UPDATE: Here is Ellett's statement in response to the Happy Ending rep's comment about the video:
This faceless “unidentified representative for Happy Ending” has further outed the unabashed and shameful negligence of this establishment.
It is deeply disturbing that my experience, which I believe starts with me being drugged (at Happy Ending) and I know ends with me being raped (at Happy Ending), has been met with an absurd and fabricated statistic that is clearly intended to explain away this assault. This number cannot and has not been quantified or corroborated by law enforcement, not that it would ever be possible to place a numerical statistic on the likelihood of a rape occurring in the first place. This number does not speak louder than the physical evidence on my body, the witness reports, and even Happy Ending’s own urge to fire the employee that did this the night it happened after reviewing their own footage that they now reference in an attempt to invalidate my assault.
Adding static to deflect from the assault is both negligent and malicious, and to imply that kissing equals consent is a deeply problematic perpetuation of the heavy, crippling, monstrous cloud of shame and guilt that ignorant and selfish men in power continue to place on victims of violence. This statement represents yet another shameful perpetuation of the much larger issue at hand, which is not my individual assault but the endless pattern of men protecting other men who hurt women. This is the antithesis of progress and speaks volumes to the lengths those in positions of privilege go to protect themselves from any threat to that power and evidently at any expense, including the health and well-being of all women.
UPDATE: Max Levai, one of Happy Ending's owners, emails to say that Nadine Johnson was fired for making those comments to the Post, and included the following statement:
Regarding last week's incident, Happy Ending has cooperated with the authorities entirely and provided them will full access, including security footage. We take these allegations very seriously. The employee in question was terminated as soon as management was made aware of the situation, and we will continue to cooperate fully as the investigation progresses. The conduct alleged to have occurred here is unacceptable and is not tolerated at our establishment. The safety of our guests is of paramount importance. On a separate note, the statements released by an external communications representative to Page 6 of the New York Post yesterday were not approved or corroborated by the establishment; we have severed our relationship with that firm as a result. We want to make plain that, at this early stage in the investigation, the details of what happened on the night in question are not yet clear, and it is not our place to opine on the veracity of the complainant’s allegations—that is for the police to determine.
However, we do know that certain third parties are attempting to use those very serious allegations as part of a broader scheme to extort money from the establishment and others in connection with an entirely separate dispute that does not involve either the complainant or the accused. Our attorneys are conducting their own inquiry into these matters, and will pursue all appropriate legal action.
In order to respect the privacy of all individuals involved and allow the police to complete their investigation without delay or interference, we cannot comment further on these specific events at this time.