Culture

TikTok star Justine Paradise accuses Jake Paul of sexual assault

It’s the latest in a disturbing trend of internet influencers being accused of misconduct.

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 30:  Jake Paul of Los Angeles California enters the ring make his boxing pro debut on January 30, 2020 part of Matchroom Boxing and DAZN Miami Fight Night at the Meridian in Miami, Fl. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Icon Sportswire/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

YouTuber and aspiring boxer Jake Paul has been accused of sexual assault by TikTok star Justine Paradise. It marks the latest in a series of misconduct allegations lobbed against internet influencers with major followings, particularly amongst teens and young adults.

Paul is well known for his brash behavior. Last year he threw a large party at his Calabasas, California home in violation of COVID-19 safety measures, which led to public condemnation by the mayor there. In another instance, in June 2020, Paul was charged with rioting and looting at an Arizona mall, a stunt he claimed was somehow meant to draw attention to Black Lives Matter.

The new claims come a 20-minute video uploaded to YouTube last Friday in which Paradise claims that Paul in July 2019 forced her to perform oral sex on him at his home. Everyone who entered the house had their picture taken and was compelled to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), she claims, which made her believe she “wasn’t allowed to talk” about the alleged assault. In California, NDAs cannot be used to cover up sexual assault allegations.

After some consensual kissing, Paradise says that Paul took her to his bedroom, where the two continued kissing before he led her to his bed. Paul began to put his hands in places that made Paradise uncomfortable. After she rejected his advances, Paul allegedly responded by asking, “If nothing’s going to happen, what’s the point?” He continued to make advances, she says, eventually placing himself on top of her and forcing oral sex. “He didn’t ask for consent or anything,” she added. “That’s not okay. On no level at all is that okay.”

Not okay — Paul is far from the only YouTube star to come under scrutiny of late. David Dobrik, one of the platform’s most popular influencers, saw a wave of sponsors cut ties recently following an Insider exposé alleging he was aware of rape allegations made against people who regularly appeared in his videos. YouTube temporarily demonetized his channel, and Dobrik was forced to step down from his position at Dispo, a startup he co-founded in 2019.

The revelations brought attention to the questionable nature of past videos released by Dobrik. Insider in its report noted a video central to the assault allegations, in which Dobrik’s friend Dominykas Zeglaitis, known as Durte Dom, lures several young girls over to Dobrik’s apartment in hopes of having five-some intercourse. One girl involved who was interviewed by Insider claims the group intentionally plied her with alcohol before Dom assaulted her.

New-era celebs — Creators on the platform have been able to generate huge followings by producing sensationalist videos that often blur the line between a prank and an actual crime. YouTubers also don’t typically have managers keeping them in check like a Hollywood celebrity might. Consequently, a cliche format of “apology videos” has sprouted up on the platform where YouTubers ask forgiveness following backlash to their antics.

Cutting off creators’ advertising has been one way YouTube has reigned in bad behavior, but YouTubers have diversified into other lines of business to protect themselves. Paul has of late turned his career more towards aspirations in boxing and music, and uploads few videos to YouTube nowadays.

Paul and his brother Logan, also a major internet celebrity, got their start on the defunct app Vine, and both have run into repeated controversy over the years for erratic behavior and tasteless content, like an infamous 2018 video in which Logan filmed a suicide victim in Japan.