A woman who sued Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson in March has come forward to detail some of her accusations against the famous yet embattled football player — and to fight back against claims by Watson’s supporters that she might not be a real person or that she was only after money.
Ashley Solis, the first of 22 women to sue Watson, spoke out against Watson at a televised press conference. The statement of another woman who lodged similar accusations against the star athlete was read before the cameras. Both were known only as Jane Does in lawsuits against Watson. They agreed to provide their names to fight back against accusations that they weren’t telling the truth or that they were merely seeking money, they said. Both gave graphic accounts of unwanted sexual touches by Watson and said they suffered professionally due to what they described as Watson’s actions.
“Ashley Solis is the reason we’re all here,” her attorney, Tony Buzbee, said. “I discouraged her from coming forward. I discouraged her because I knew this would be the reaction. Ashley Solis is a very brave person. She’s very brave. She was the first individual who filed a lawsuit. It is because of her bravery that we are here. She has been a pioneer. You have heard from the Watson team that they want to know the identity of these victims, that maybe they don’t even exist, that we’ve been trying to hide their identity. Well, that is not true.”
He added that Solis “will not be bullied,” then turned the microphones over to Solis herself.
“My name is Ashley Solis: remember that name. I hope every woman or man out there who is a survivor hears my story, and I hope my story gives them courage to speak up. It has taken me a long time to get to this point, to come out publicly and speak my truth. I know a lot of you are probably wondering who I was or if I even existed. I was afraid. I’m not afraid anymore, and I do exist.”
“I’m here to take back — take back the power and take back control. I am a survivor of assault and harassment. Deshaun Watson is my assaulter and my harasser. Deshaun Watson assaulted and harassed me on March 30, 2020, in my own home doing what I love most: massage therapy,” she said.
Solis broke down in tears.
“I am a licensed massage therapist. Now, that profession that I love so much has been forever tainted,” Solis continued. She said she was not surprised but saddened to see victim blaming online aimed in her direction by Deshaun Watson’s supporters.
“This incident has impacted me in many ways, and those ways are hard to describe. There are a range of emotions: guilt, embarrassment, shame, courage, anger, sadness and numbness. Some days I feel like a hero; other days I feel like a failure,” Solis said, still struggling through tears. “I replay the incident over and over in my head as if I’m trying to wake up from some horrible nightmare — only that nightmare is real. I blame myself at times, which is insane; society has groomed women to believe that it’s their fault when they’re harassed or assaulted, as if somehow we asked for it or if someone we could have prevented it. I can no longer practice the profession I love the most without shaking during the session. My hands shake whenever I place them on a client and I have to cut the session short. If he only knew how heartbreaking that is to me. I got into massage therapy to heal people — to heal their minds and bodies, to make peace in their souls. Deshaun Watson has robbed me of that.”
She continued to struggle emotionally through her speech.
“He tainted a profession in which I take enormous pride,” Solis said. “Flashes of Watson’s face rush to me in the moment. I think of his penis touching me; it sends me into a tailspin. I suffer from panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. I am in counseling as a result of this — Deshaun Watson’s actions. I hope he knows how much pain he’s inflicted on me emotionally and physically, and I hope he knows how much pain he’s inflicted on these other survivors. My father, who was once a diehard Texans fan, can no longer mention his name without turning red, seething with disappointment. I think that that’s the most heartbreaking aspect of it all. We were all deceived into thinking Deshaun Watson was a good guy, and unfortunately we know that good guys can do terrible things.”
“This incident is a part of me, but it’s not all of me; I will not let Deshaun Watson define who I am. I will not let him win. He needs to be held accountable for his actions. I will not let him take my power away. I am stronger now, and I know who I am. People say that I’m doing this just for money. That is false. I come forward now so that Deshaun Watson does not assault another woman, and I come forward now with hopes that no other human being will assault another in the future. I want to prevent this type of conduct. I come forward now to bring change in our society. I am seeking justice not just on behalf of myself but for all survivors. I stand with you all. This is about having my voice heard. This is about having other survivors’ voices heard. My name is Ashley Solis, and I am a survivor.”
Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation records reviewed by Law&Crime indicate that Solis has an active license in Houston, Harris County, Texas, which became effective February 2, 2018.
Another accuser spoke only through a letter which was read on her behalf. That accuser, Lauren Baxley, said Watson reached out to her through Instagram and that she was “excited” to work with him at first.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with many athletes, and as massage therapy is an important component to athletic performance, I took it seriously that you would trust me with your physical recovery,” the letter said.
Baxley’s letter said she watched video of football games and studied the type of hits football players suffered so she could best attend to Watson’s needs. She said Watson asked for a “professional” massage therapist who was “non-sexual” and that it was “difficult” to find someone who was “comfortable” working with him. She assumed others were starstruck but believed she was able to get beyond that.
Eventually, Baxley said Watson asked repeatedly for “privacy” and “privacy space” — and also and for shower facilities prior to his massage. The request for a shower was odd, but she acquiesced under the assumption he may have been coming for the massage after an athletic workout or practice.
Prior to a massage, she directed Watson to get under massage sheets and face down on a massage table.
“I stepped out to give you privacy and space and closed the doors between us. When you confirmed that you were ready for your massage, I entered the room and was both shocked and sickened to find you completely nude face down. Your full rear was exposed, as well as your scrotum. I quickly covered you with a hand towel as you tried to insist that you were both uncomfortable by the towel and you didn’t mind being exposed. I said that I minded, and as I attempted to start the session, you clearly directed me away from a therapeutic glute massage toward your anus. Every boundary from professional and therapeutic to sexual and degrading you crossed or attempted to cross.”
She continued by saying Watson requested “digital stimulation” in the “glutal area” — an ethical violation for massage therapists.
“I did not want to touch you, but my terror kept me in autopilot, and I continued to the best of my ability to give you therapeutic treatment, but at this point, it was clear that’s not what you were seeking. When you turned over, you again exposed yourself, this time your penis. When I covered your groin area, you complained again that the very soft towel I had provided was ‘itchy and rough.’ At that point, I carefully covered your groin with a softer headrest cover, pulling the towel out from under that so as not to expose you. You were aroused and removed the cover when I was working on your upper quad area, at which time you moved in such a way that your penis touched my hand. You then told me to ‘just grab it’ if it was in my way. This happened multiple times, and I felt as if the session time was spent trying not to be sick, not having outbursts, and keep you covered. In those minutes, I considered my past, present, and potential clients who were connected to you through the Texans franchise and your social life. With your millions of fans and followers, with your resources and income, I felt both powerless and trapped. My work contract with my building was tied to my lease, and at the snap of your fingers, I knew my good reputation, my home, and my career might be lost.”
Baxley went on to describe “anger and disgust” toward Watson and of her own “outspoken nature” against abuse.
“I am furious that the talented and hard-working young Black man that gave so many children inspiration is nothing more than a predator with power,” she said. “I am heartbroken for your family, for your loved ones, for those coming to terms with the fact that your charitable work and ‘good guy’ persona are nothing more than a meticulously designed facade to keep your victims silent and second-guessing themselves. How can such a good man do such terrible things and with frequency and total disregard for his abuse victims? You are not a good man. Anything good that you have done is poisoned by your true nature.”
Baxley said she had worked with richer and more famous clients and that none of them asked for sexual massages.
Law&Crime was not able to find Baxley’s name in a state licensing database.
The 22 current lawsuits against Watson on file in Harris County, Tex., have been filed on various days spanning March 16, 2021 and April 5, 2021. Solis’s case alleges civil assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Some of the other cases also allege sexual assault. At least one case only alleges an emotional distress claim.
Per the lawsuits, the alleged damages include:
Conscious physical and mental pain and suffering, and anguish, past and future;
Physical impairment, past and future;
Loss of enjoyment of life and peace of mind, past and future;
Reasonable and necessary medical, counseling, psychiatric, therapeutic, and related expenses, past and future;
Loss of earnings and earning capacity; and
Such other damages that will be shown at trial.
The lawsuits also seek “exemplary damages to deter such conduct going forward, and to make an example out of this Defendant.” “Exemplary damages” is another legal word for “punitive damages.” They are designed to serve as a punishment.
Under Texas law, exemplary damages are strictly limited. They cannot exceed the “greater of” either (A) two times the amount of economic damages (such as lost salaries, etc.) plus the amount of noneconomic damages (pain, suffering, and the like) — up to a total of $750,000; or (B) $200,000. The exemplary damages caps do not apply to knowing or intentional sexual assault cases which also meet felony criminal sexual assault definitions.
Texans Chairman and CEO Cal McNair responded to the Watson accusations Monday.
“We want to assure you that we take these allegations very seriously. As reported, HPD (Houston Police Department) and the National Football League are conducting investigations and we will cooperate fully,” he said, according to Sports Illustrated. “We respect the legal process and will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
Watson said he treated women with the “utmost respect” in a social media post dated March 16.
“As a result of a social media post by a publicity-seeking plaintiff’s lawyer I recently became aware of a lawsuit that has apparently been filed against me,” Watson said. “I have not yet seen the complaint but I know this: I have never treated any woman with anything other than the utmost respect. The plaintiff’s lawyer claims that this isn’t about money, but before filing suit he made a baseless six-figure settlement demand, which I quickly rejected. Unlike him, this isn’t about money for me — it’s about clearing my name, and I look forward to doing that.”
— Deshaun Watson (@deshaunwatson) March 17, 2021
He has not tweeted since that date.
Read the first lawsuit below:
[image via screen capture from KHOU-TV]
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