Women Slap Peter Rofé's Voice-Over Company
With Class Action Suit For Allowing Sexual Assault
April 17, 2018
By John Florian
Will voice-over's alleged sexual predator Peter Rofé and his #MeToo accusers meet again - but this time in court?
Voice actor Lucy Engelman and a growing number of other women are counting on that.
Engelman charges Rofé with sexual assault in a class action suit filed in New York's Manhattan Supreme Court on March 6 against Rofé's company, PDR Voice, Inc. Formerly located in Manhattan, Rofé moved his company and studio to nearby Irvington, NY in 2016.
Nine additional women have joined the suit since the filing.
"My aim is for Rofé to face public legal repercussions for his crimes," Engelman tells VoiceOverXtra. "News media coverage is helpful, but trial by court of law is the way we recognize crimes in our society. I want myself and other women to have justice."
In recent months, many women have revealed being sexually harassed or assaulted by Rofé - a prominent voice actor, producer and trainer in the New York City area - during voice-over training sessions with him from 1999 to September 2017. (See VoiceOverXtra's series). The PDR Voice website is no longer available online.
SUPPRESSED MEMORY OF ASSAULT
News late last year of Hollywood's Harvey Weinstein's predatory behavior "triggered a suppressed memory of my assault," Engelman says. "I immediately told my husband and close friend, who both urged me to call a lawyer for the possibility of pressing criminal charges.
"Unfortunately, and infuriatingly, the statute of limitations (on Engelman's experience) had just run out a few months prior," she explains. "So my attorney recommended that we try for negligence by a company because Rofé is his own company."
In the class action suit, her attorney Jordan K. Merson states:
"This is the case of Lucy Engelman, an artist who was subjected to emotional and physical abuse while she attended a voice-over coaching session at PDR Voice-Over Coaching. Defendant Peter Rofé, who as an instructor at PDR Voice-Over Coaching, used his position of power to sexually assault Ms. Engelman ...
"On or about June 29, 2015, Peter Rofé forcibly attacked Lucy Engelman during a recording of a voice-over demo reel by groping her and trying to force himself onto her by kissing her as if it was part of a scene, even though it was not. Defendant Peter Rofé insisted that they both ran through the same dialogue three times and each time he forced himself on her, grabbing her arms, pulling her against his body, and forcibly kissing her, and/or other unlawful conduct."The suit then charges that the company, PDR Voice, had a duty to supervise Rofé yet negligently failed to "stop, prevent and prohibit the improper conduct that resulted in the battery and assault."
HOW TO JOIN SUIT ...
Merson expects the number of women in the suit to grow.
"Other victims of Rofé should know that for the first time, there is a path to justice that they can choose to take," he says.
He adds that a jury award for the physical and emotional damages suffered by the women in the class action suit is expected to be "a large one given the gravity and scale of the allegations." The award would include the attorney's fees and costs incurred by the accusers.
How to join?
"The requirements are that you were subjected to unlawful sexual conduct by Rofé," Merson explains. "Yet there are numerous different statutes of limitations, so victims should not jump to conclusions about whether they have a valid claim or not."
No date has been set for the closing of the suit, Merson adds.
To review their situation, victims are invited to contact Merson's firm in New York City at (212) 603-9100. Ask for Giovanna Mabile.
At the https//mersonlaw.com website, the firm lists "Sexual Assault Victims" as one of its specialties.
CNN REPORT BREAKS SILENCE
In recent years, Rofé's victims have found each other online as reports surfaced about Rofé's behavior - including in reviews on Rofés local Yelp business listing.
Though they often privately told spouses, partners and friends about the encounters with Rofé, the women feared professional reprisals for speaking out publicly - until February 8, when 16 accusers broke that silence in an extensive CNN report (see VoiceOverXtra article).
Voice actor Heather Costa was among those interviewed in the CNN report, and today says that a private Facebook group relating to Rofé's assaults has 40 members - and that a total of 60 women he assaulted "have come forward to us privately."
Others are invited to share experiences or ask questions by writing to the firstname.lastname@example.org.
RESTART IN AMSTERDAM
Engelman (pictured) currently lives in Amsterdam, where she has restarted her voice-over career.
"I'm happy to say that here in Amsterdam I've had the confidence and desire to really pursue VO," she says. "Not only is my American accent in demand here - I've booked commercials and dubbing TV shows - but I also feel a distance from the New York - L.A. world where Rofé was seemingly such a presence."
Yet memories linger.
"It was stressful at times being asked to constantly relive the awful experience (during preparation of the class action suit)," she says.
At the same time, she adds, "I was also fielding ignorant questions from well-meaning people who weren't familiar with what happened. It's so interesting how everyone has an opinion about it, without necessarily having had a personal experience.
"Now that the suit has been filed I feel an emotional relief - although I did have a freakout the night afterwards when I woke up from a terrible dream where Rofé had taken out a hit man on me."
She laughs: "Luckily, I'm pretty far away in Amsterdam."
ABOUT THE MONEY ...
Atty. Merson predicts a "large" jury award, but Engelman and another woman in this class action suit - who wishes to remain anonymous - eye a dollar amount closer to what they had paid Rofé for coaching and a demo.
"I'm not anticipating a jury award, to be honest," says Engelman, "although it would be vindicating if all the women who paid money to him and were then assaulted would receive at least the amount of money that they paid him.
"Then there is the possibility of donating to other causes fighting predatory and exploitative behavior," she adds. "But no, this has never been about the money."
The other woman commenting to VoiceOverXtra about her role in the suit, however, is indeed seeking a refund for what she paid Rofé to produce a demo.
"My father gave me that money after Peter essentially convinced me that the demo and his coaching would change my life," she says. "I want the money back so I can record with someone who makes me feel comfortable. Peter never wanted us to sound like our authentic selves."
'BEST DECISION FOR MYSELF'
This woman learned about the suit through the private Facebook group that she joined earlier this year.
"I had considered a lawsuit on my own, after speaking with several close family members and my fiance about it," she says. "I was angry at the exploitative behavior he used toward me and the other women.
"Once I saw the posts on Facebook about the suit, it took me a while to get up the guts to call the lawyer (but then) realized I was making the best decision for myself and the other women."
She says the "unusable" Rofé demo includes a spot for Trojan condoms, "which other women in the group have mentioned he used to coerce them."
Overall, she says, joining the suit has become a "roller coaster ride," sending her back to counseling and anti-anxiety medication.
She is in graduate school now, focusing on acting, and upon graduation will continue her voice-over career "with a new demo and a new outlook."
'THE INDUSTRY KNEW'
But she remains uneasy about a VO industry that she believes knew about Rofé's behavior yet did not warn unsuspecting women about it.
"I would tell people I had worked with him and looking back at those times, I remember their reactions being odd. Long stares, silences, perhaps trying not to reveal what they knew about him," she says.
"The industry knew, and the industry didn't do a thing about it.
"A casting director in a class I was taking mentioned a coach flashing someone, and he told the women in the class to be careful. But he didn't mention names.
"Peter Rofé was an incredibly smart manipulator," she says. "And I hope people don't blame the victims, because, trust me, we've blamed ourselves for a long enough time. We don't need anyone else to do it for us."
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