We figured the arrest of former Bravo TV star Thomas Ravenel earlier this week on second degree assault and battery charges – news of which broke exclusively on this outlet – was the biggest bombshell we would see coming out of the Southern Charm orbit this month.
Boy, were we wrong …
Less than forty-eight hours after Ravenel’s arrest, another seismic development took place … one that left fans of the program (and followers of its real-life drama) struggling to retrieve their jaws from the floor.
First, a little background on what led us to this week’s dual detonations …
Ravenel’s ongoing sexual assault issues began on April 14 of this year when this news outlet exclusively reported on an alleged incident from December of 2015 in which the former state treasurer and two-time U.S. Senate candidate reportedly assaulted a 54-year-old Florida woman.
This allegation was first raised (and reinforced) by Florida-based model Ashley Perkins – the daughter of the alleged victim. Perkins launched an aggressive social media crusade aimed at exposing the 56-year-old playboy. According to her, she was present for a mediation hearing at the Belmond Charleston Place Hotel in June of 2016 in which Ravenel settled a sexual assault allegation with her mother for $200,000.
Ravenel flatly denied the allegation. In fact, he issued a blanket denial of any allegation of sexual assault.
“I’ve never assaulted a woman in my life,” he told us at the time.
Ravenel and his attorney also threatened to sue our news outlet if we published a report based on these allegations.
We will return to Perkins in a moment …
For now, though, let’s continue with the narrative from April. In addition to drawing national media attention to her mother’s allegations against Ravenel, Perkins inspired others with similar allegations involving the Charleston businessman to come forward. One of those women? Nanny Dawn.
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On May 8 of this year, our news outlet exclusively reported that the Charleston, S.C. police department had launched a “preliminary inquiry” into sexual assault allegations involving Ravenel. In a follow-up report published later that month, we revealed that several key pieces of evidence related to this case – including a cell phone loaded with what one source called “incriminating data” pertinent to the allegations – were in the process of being turned over to detectives leading the investigation.
This investigation was initiated by Dawn, who gave her first interview to our guest columnist Amy Feinstein shortly after speaking with detectives.
In that conversation, Dawn told Feinstein she was “empowered” by Perkins and her efforts to hold Ravenel accountable.
“This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, and I don’t even know if he (Ravenel) will be charged, but I need to let others know they aren’t alone,” Dawn said.
Shortly thereafter other women – including Ravenel ex-girlfriend Luzanne Otte – began to share their experiences about allegedly erratic and menacing “switch-flipping” behavior displayed by the Palmetto political scion.
Meanwhile, Southern Charm episodes filmed months prior to these allegations breaking in wide circulation showcased Ravenel’s deceitfulness and general insufferable nature. These episodes also revealed how many former Ravenel defenders – including Charleston grand dame Patricia Altschul – had already begun to doubt his trustworthiness, prompting them to shift their allegiances toward his co-star former girlfriend, Kathryn Dennis.
When the fifth season of the show finally wrapped in June, the allegations against Ravenel had reached a crescendo – resulting in a “mutual agreement” that he not appear on the show’s fifth season reunion episodes.
Sources close to the show tell us the network insisted on Ravenel’s absence.
“He says ‘mutual agreement,'” one Southern Charm insider told us. “He was told to stay away.”
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While the dark side of Ravenel has been exposed this year on multiple fronts, we were skeptical – like Dawn – as to whether criminal charges would actually be filed against him in connection with these allegations. It is not that we doubted the veracity of his accusers (if we did, we never would have broken any of these stories in first place) but the fact remains sexual assault allegations are extremely difficult to prove – especially when the incident is alleged to have occurred several years earlier.
Also, it is very important to remember prosecutors are bound by evidence. They must decide whether to bring charges based on what they believe they can prove in court – not what they believe actually happened.
Therefore, the fact that a criminal charge has been filed against Ravenel is significant. It does not mean he is guilty, obviously, it simply means police believe there is sufficient evidence to warrant bringing a case against him.
Our founding editor Will Folks was interviewed several months ago in connection with this investigation. Specifically, Charleston police called him to inquire as to whether Dawn had previously confided in him about the allegations involving Ravenel – and whether the account she provided at the time was consistent with the information she provided to police earlier this year.
Folks – well-known for his protection of sources – kept Dawn’s secret for three years prior to her decision to come forward in May. With her blessing, he affirmed to police that she had indeed confided details of the alleged assault to him, and that her account of what happened – as related by a Charleston detective – was consistent with what she told him at the time.
That leads us back to Perkins (below) …
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On Thursday – less than forty-eight hours after Ravenel’s arrest – the 29-year-old model sent out a tweet that took everyone who has followed this story completely by surprise.
“Regarding the arrest of Thomas Ravenel I want to state that the alleged victim contacted me before she went to (police),” she wrote. “We talked around 20 (hours). Her story to me regarding Thomas has no resemblance to the police report (and) her interviews with media. I have informed the police and (Ravenel’s) attorneys.”
Wait a minute … what?
Let’s see if we’ve got this straight: The same woman who alleged that her mother was sexually assaulted by Ravenel, whose incessant advocacy on social media directly precipitated his #MeToo moment and whose courage in stepping forward inspired Dawn and others to tell their story … this woman is now publicly questioning Dawn’s credibility? And not only that, is sharing information with attorneys who represent the man she accused of raping her mother?
Inconceivably, yes …
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Wow. In the parlance of Bravo viewers, “we can’t even …”
Asked on social media whether she believed what allegedly happened to Dawn was worse than what was described in the police report, Perkins responded “no, definitely not worse.” She further claimed there were “major discrepancies” between what Dawn told her and what she told the police and the press.
Here is that follow-up tweet …
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Perkins’ revelations prompted a virulently negative reaction. She was assailed almost universally – with many of her detractors using the harshest possible invective. Meanwhile, one website alleged that she had been paid off by Ravenel.
“Whatever would cause someone to suddenly attack another victim of the man who she admits paid her family off once for their silence after he forced himself on her mother? Well, another pay out of course,” the website Tamara Tattles opined. “I wonder how much she got this time? How much would you need to be paid to be the spokesperson for the man you claim sexually assaulted your mother?”
Another website – one that has served as a mouthpiece for Ravenel in the past – took a different tact, taking Perkins’ tweets and using them to generate a headline that accused Dawn of lying.
So … what prompted all of this?
Perkins agreed to speak exclusively with this news site earlier this week about what motivated her to come forward and publicly question Dawn.
“After Thomas was arrested, I knew it was time to share the truth,” she told us. “When the charges were downgraded to battery, that sounded more like the version of events (Dawn) shared with me, rather than forcible rape.”
“The truth is that Dawn and I conversed around twenty hours and she told me her version of events at least ten times going into extreme detail each time,” Perkins continued. “I believed Dawn and I encouraged her to go to the police. Following her interview with the police and her interview with People, I saw that her story was completely different than what she had been sharing with me over the course of weeks. At this point, I broke contact with Dawn as I no longer believed her story and I didn’t want to be involved.”
Perkins said she informed police – and Ravenel’s attorneys – of these inconsistencies back in May. She also claimed to have referenced her doubts to at least one member of the media.
“This is not a recent event,” she said.
Perkins declined to provide us with specific details of the alleged “major discrepancies” of which she tweeted.
“I have no idea what happened between Dawn and Thomas as I was not there in the house with them,” she said. “All I know is what Dawn told me and what I read that she told others and they were different versions. The version Dawn shared with me conflicts with the version she is currently telling. As this is a pending investigation that may lead to a trial, I do not want to hinder the investigation. Dawn’s version (as) told to me from the very beginning doesn’t align with what she told authorities and the media. The details she shared with me were escalated when talking with the media.”
Perkins also declined to tell us what she said in her conversations with police or with Ravenel’s lawyers.
“I was 100 percent honest when questioned by the detective, even though I hated providing potentially exonerating evidence for Thomas,” she said. “All of my answers were honest and thorough. I simply repeated to both the attorney and the detective what Dawn, herself, had said to me.”
We asked Perkins what her mom thought of her statements defending Ravenel.
“My mother and I do not talk about Thomas Ravenel,” she said. “It was painful for me to have to provide truthful information that could help Thomas but what would anyone do in this situation? I didn’t ask for this. Dawn contacted me and brought me into this situation. I obviously believed her or I would not have encouraged her to go to the police. Once faced with the truth, however, I did what anyone would do in my situation. I told the truth, even though it helped someone who had ‘allegedly’ hurt my mother.”
As for allegations that she received a payout from Ravenel, Perkins told us such statements were “totally false and defamatory.”
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(Via: Bravo TV)
“I have had no contact with Thomas Ravenel and I most certainly have received no money from anyone regarding this situation,” she said.
Dawn has yet to respond publicly to the statements from Perkins questioning her narrative.
“I speak out, not DOWN,” she tweeted early Saturday. “The difference can change the current rape culture. If you are pro-woman, be an example through leadership.”
Friendly text messages exchanged between the two women in the aftermath of their shared revelations offered no clue as to what may have prompted Perkins’ abrupt about-face.
“The victim should never be blamed!” Perkins wrote in one message sent to Dawn back in May.
In another early May message to Dawn she wrote “be prepared … you have to have a tough skin … people especially women are brutal!”
Perkins appears to have cut off contact with Dawn on or around May 12, right around the time Ravenel was reportedly contacting others who had spoken out against him in an effort to negotiate terms of his “surrender.”
What do we make of all this?
Honestly … we have no idea.
Perkins’ tweet challenging Dawn’s credibility truly shocked us. Not only that, it has genuinely outraged thousands of Southern Charm fans who have been following this drama (on- and off-screen) ever since we first began reporting on it back in the spring.
Perkins says she doesn’t care about the visceral reaction she is receiving, though.
“I knew when I told the truth that the lynch mob would come after me, but I felt as though I had no choice,” she told us.
To be clear: This news site believes the current allegations against Ravenel are just the tip of the iceberg – with respect to him and others associated with this program. That’s why we continue to follow this saga and its attendant sub-plots. This story is no longer about the petty squabbling and eye-rolling vapidity of a South Carolina-based reality television show. It is about serious criminal allegations with potentially life-altering consequences for any number of individuals. It is also about a toxic culture surrounding a program that is supposed to provided mindless entertainment – and whether those who produce this program (including one staring down his own legal issues) enabled some of the bad behavior we are now seeing come to light.
In other words, this is now a crime story … one we are committed to following wherever it may lead.
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