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Backstreet Boys' Nick Carter Accused Of Raping Disabled Woman in 2001

Shannon "Shay" Ruth, who has autism and cerebral palsy, has sued the singer over the 2001 incident, which she said occurred on his tour bus when she was 17.

By Megan Carpentier
Nick Carter attends the After Party for "Bingo Under The Stars"

Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys has been sued by a woman who accuses him of raping her on his tour bus in 2001.

Shannon "Shay" Ruth, 39, filed the lawsuit against Carter, 42, in Clark County, Nevada District Court on Thursday alleging sexual battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress, according to documents obtained by Law & Crime. It asks the court to award at least $30,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

Oxygen.com does not typically name victims of sexual assault, but Ruth's lawyers said in a Thursday press conference at which she spoke that she was allowing her lawyers and reporters to use her name.

In her lawsuit, Ruth alleges that, when she was 17 and a virgin from a religious family, she met Carter, who was then 21, in an autograph line after a Backstreet Boys concert in Tacoma, Washington in February 2001. (The band was touring in support of their album "Black & Blue" and did two shows at the Tacoma Dome on Feb. 25-26, 2001.) She says he invited her back to his tour bus, then offered her a drink — at which point she asked for apple juice. Carter, she says, said he only had cranberry and then offered her a red drink that she believed tasted off. He told her it was "VIP Juice"; she now believes it was a vodka cranberry.

Nick Carter on "The Today Show" on February 7, 2001.

After she finished her drink, he allegedly offered her a tour of the bus and, once in the bathroom, ordered her to get on her knees and exposed himself, demanding that she perform oral sex. Ruth says she began to cry and Carter berated her for crying but continued to insist. She alleges she performed the act under duress and while still crying. 

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At some point, Ruth alleges that Carter pulled up his pants and told her they would "continue the tour," leading her to the bed at the back of the bus. She says in the lawsuit that he invited her to sit next to him, then pushed her down on the bed and got on top of her. She alleges she repeatedly tried to get up, but he kept pushing her down, eventually forcefully removing her pants, attempting to perform oral sex on her and finally raping her as she cried again.

She says in the lawsuit that he shushed her while he was on top of her and told her it would be their "special secret."

She then says that, after he finished, she put her pants back on and tried to leave, threatening to tell what he had done to her.

"After he raped me I remember him calling me a  r*****ed b***h and grabbing me and leaving bruises on my arm," she said at the press conference through tears. "I’d also like to say that Carter tried to scare me into silence by saying no one would believe me if I told what happened. He was nasty and threatening, saying I would go to jail if I told. He also said he’d turn people against me because he was Nick Carter and he had the power to wreck my life."

"The last 21 years have been filled with pain, confusion, frustration, shame and self-harm that are a direct result of Nick Carter raping me," she said. "Even though I am autistic and live with cerebral palsy, I believe that nothing has affected me more or has had a more lasting impact on my life than what Nick Carter did and said to me."

Her lawyer, Mark Boskovich, noted at the press conference that the advocacy organization, Disability Justice, estimates that, based on surveys, 83 percent of women with disabilities are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes and just three percent are reported to authorities.

"After my assault, I started cutting myself to hide my pain," she added. "I felt like I had nowhere to turn, no way to express my emotions — pain and confusion — except by hurting myself and I truly believed that if I told anyone, I would go to jail. I am still struggling with that because it just kind of hangs in the back of my mind."

Nick Carter attends the After Party for "Bingo Under The Stars"

Ruth and her lawyers allege that, as a result of the sexual assault, she became infected with human papillomavirus (HPV), a common but untreatable sexually transmitted infection, some strains of which can lead to cancers or genital warts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (The vaccine against HPV, currently available for both men and women ages nine through 45, only received Food and Drug Administration approval in 2006.)

Boscovitz, who works for the San Jose-based personal injury firm Corsiglia McMahon & Allard, alleges that the firm's investigation has found three other women, listed as Jane Does in the lawsuit, who had similar stories. Jane Doe 1 alleges that Carter plied her with alcohol and sexually assaulted her in 2003, also infecting her with HPV. Jane Doe 2 alleges she engaged in intercourse with Carter in 2003 when she was 15 and Carter would have been 23, that he provided her with alcohol and that he gave her an unspecified sexually transmitted infection. Jane Doe 3 alleges that an extremely intoxicated Carter digitally assaulted her in Key West, Florida in 2006, and then forced her to perform oral sex on him and a friend.

Carter was previously accused of sexual misconduct by former girl-group member Melissa Schuman, who came forward in 2017 and alleged that Carter sexually assaulted her in 2003, according to Rolling Stone. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office investigated but declined to press charges because the statute of limitations had expired, according to CNN.

Carter's reps denied Schuman's charge, saying the incident was consensual.

His reps also denied Ruth's allegations in a statement to NBC News and TMZ.

"Unfortunately, for several years now, Ms. Ruth has been manipulated into making false allegations about Nick — and those allegations have changed repeatedly and materially over time," attorney Michael Holtz said. "No one should be fooled by a press stunt orchestrated by an opportunistic lawyer — there is nothing to this claim whatsoever, which we have no doubt the courts will quickly realize."

Ruth's lawyers were having none of it.

“You’ll hear the perpetrators offering the same tired excuses ad nauseam: 'She consented, I didn’t know her, I have no idea what this is about,'" Ruth's lawyer Boscovitz said at the press conference. "That’s hogwash.”

Ruth, for her part, thanked her three "sister survivors" — the Jane Does — for coming forward to support her and encouraged any other victims to do so as well.

"Even though I’m doing this in my name, I’m doing this for all of us, because all of our stories matter," she said. "And I know it’s super hard to come forward and it’s scary, but we have to stand together and we have to show Nick that we’ve taken our power back, that he doesn’t get to have our power anymore. He’s had it long enough."

Following the lawsuit, ABC canceled the planned Dec. 14 airing of the Backstreet Boys' holiday special, "A Very Backstreet Holiday," Variety reported.

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