‘Shot in the vagina’

The same forces that feed into the violence against migrant women are also undermining climate action.

Maria Meza, a migrant woman from Honduras, runs away from tear gas with her five-year-old twin daughters Saira and Cheili at the US-Mexico border on November 25, 2018 [File: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon]
Maria Meza, a migrant woman from Honduras, runs away from tear gas with her five-year-old twin daughters Saira and Cheili at the US-Mexico border on November 25, 2018 [File: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon]

Last December, the Trump administration enacted a scheme requiring Central American asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their legal proceedings drag on indefinitely in the United States.

The Migrant Protection Protocols policy – a handily perverse euphemism – is the approximate equivalent of calling the Exxon Valdez oil spill the Marine Life Protection Initiative. As various human rights and advocacy organisations have pointed out, the border programme has exposed tens of thousands of asylum seekers to violence; including rape, kidnapping and assault, in the unsure border regions of Mexico.

In light of the surplus of rapes and other abuses already documented as a result of so-called “protection”, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – marked annually on November 25 – is an ideal occasion to reflect on the violence facing migrant women in an era of mass migration.

Pervasive violence

As the UN Women website observes : ” Rape is rooted in a complex set of patriarchal beliefs, power, and control that continue to create a social environment in which sexual violence is pervasive and normalised.”

For an idea of the extent of normalisation, just recall Patriarch-in-chief President Donald Trump‘s own previous advice about fondling women without their consent: “Grab ’em by the p****.”

Migrant women, of course, are particularly vulnerable to “grabbing” – and much worse – especially given that crimes against migrants are not generally reported or prosecuted. And for Central American women transiting Mexico to the US border, sexual assault is frequently par for the course.

Lest anyone assume that this validates the Trumpian vision of Mexico as composed of rapists and criminals , however, just recall the epidemic of rape in the US’s own military – not to mention rampant claims of sexual abuse of immigrant children held at US detention facilities.

‘Shot in the vagina’

It bears emphasising, too, that many of the women who flee Central America are fleeing a system of patriarchal violence that the US itself has played no small part in sustaining.

Following the 2009 US-abetted right-wing coup in Honduras, for example, a surge in femicides and all manner of other crimes was accompanied by a climate of impunity that has yet to subside. According to a New York Times essay , a 2018 study conducted in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula indicated that more than 96 percent of women’s murders went unpunished – an arrangement presumably facilitated by reports that officials in the “agency entrusted with investigating women’s deaths [were] killing women themselves”.

Murder methods have included being “shot in the vagina” and “skinned alive”.

In addition to throwing a bunch of money at homicidal Central American security forces, the US underwrites capitalist patriarchy by pushing punitive economic policies – pardon, supporting “development” and “investment” – that favour the financial domination of the United States’ local, predominantly male and obsequiously neoliberal elite acolytes.

This ensures that, while US corporate interests in the region remain sacrosanct, the lives of the poor are expendable – and the lives of women even more so. After all, as far as capitalism is concerned, there can never be too much inequality.

Patriarchal contexts

Meanwhile, across the ocean, violence against women is also tied up with migration. Last year, the UN found that in Libya – a primary jumping-off point for maritime migration to Europe – the ” overwhelming majority of [migrant] women and older teenage girls interviewed … reported being gang-raped by smugglers or traffickers.”

In Libya‘s migrant detention centres, too, rape is rife. And, thanks to an agreement between the Italian government and the Libyan coastguard, migrants intercepted at sea are often returned to these very same centres.

Never mind that centuries of European colonialism and exploitation of the African continent have played no small role in determining present migration patterns; “fortress Europe” has appointed itself unquestionable victim of the migrant crisis, condemning the actual victims to a criminalised existence that only increases the chances of their further victimisation.

For many migrant women, then, life becomes one continuous migration between patriarchal contexts in which sexual violence is pervasive and normalised.

And for those who do make it to Europe, things do not necessarily improve. Amnesty International has documented how, for a great number of females in Greek refugee camps, ” the insecurity and dangers they experience in Greece are a constant reminder of the violence they sought to escape”.

Among the interviewees at one camp was a Cameroonian woman who had to flee abuse twice. Leaving Cameroon on account of an abusive husband, she made it to Istanbul, where she found a job at a sweatshop. When her employer there started sexually abusing her as well, she fled again, this time to Greece.

Violate women, violate the earth

But physical violence and socioeconomic inequality are not the only ways in which patriarchal systems drive migration. Consider reports that climate change could generate more than 200 million refugees by 2050 – and that climate change disproportionately affects women.

Consider also an August article at The New Republic, headlined The Misogyny of Climate Deniers, which catalogues a ” growing body of research linking gender reactionaries to climate-denialism” and finds that “male reactionaries motivated by right-wing nationalism, anti-feminism, and climate denialism increasingly overlap”.

According to a 2014 paper published by the International Journal for Masculinity Studies, the whole notion of climate change is in fact perceived as a “threat to the masculinity of industrial modernity”.

By extension, then, patriarchal capitalism imperils not only women but the planet itself.

Now, as the migrant crisis rages on and humanity hurtles towards self-destruction , the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women should serve as a reminder that, without first smashing the patriarchy, we will never even stand a chance.

INTERACTIVE: Violence against women

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Trump may be Maine Sen. Susan Collins’ biggest re-election hurdle

Add in the impeachment inquiry, and the Republican has more to worry about than just her Democratic challengers

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Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, hands out candy to children outside her office during an Oct. 25 trick-or-treat event hosted by the local chamber of commerce in Lewiston. Associated Press/David Sharp

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, hands out candy to children outside her office during an Oct. 25 trick-or-treat event hosted by the local chamber of commerce in Lewiston.

LEWISTON — Republican Sen. Susan Collins has a well-funded Democrat prepping to challenge her next year. She has national women’s groups ready to attack her over her vote for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. And she’s a moderate facing an electorate that increasingly prioritizes purity.

Still, the four-term Maine senator’s biggest hurdle to re-election may be the president of her own party.

President Trump’s potential impeachment in the House and subsequent trial in the Senate presents a distinct dilemma for Collins. Of the handful of Republicans senators facing re-election next year, she has done perhaps the most to keep a clear distance from Trump. But as Democrats charge ahead toward impeachment, it looks increasingly likely that Collins will be forced to take sides in dramatic fashion. The senator, who has acknowledged she didn’t vote for the president in 2016 and still won’t say whether she will next year, may have to vote for him on the Senate floor.

“Susan Collins is in a terrible position,” said David Farmer, a Democratic operative in Maine. “The position that she’s in where she will likely … take a vote on whether to remove the president from office is going to inflame either the Democratic or the Republican base.”

Collins has kept mum on the House inquiry into whether the president abused his power by trying to get the president of Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter because of her potential role as an impeachment juror.

But she’s already shown a willingness to criticize the president on various issues. She said it was “completely inappropriate” for Trump to ask China to investigate the Bidens. And she said his decision to pull U.S. troops from the border in Syria and leave Kurds open to attack was “terribly unwise.”

Trump often lashes out at those who criticize him, even those in his own party, like Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

But he has not attacked Collins, yet.

Collins’ aides shrug off questions of how presidential politics could factor into her race, and the 66-year-old senator said she’s built her career on an independence valued by Mainers.

“I just have to run, should I decide to run, my own race. And that’s what I’ve always done regardless of who’s on the top of the ticket,” she told The Associated Press.

She has said she plans to formally announce whether she’s seeking re-election later this fall.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has thrown its support behind Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon. The three other Democratic candidates are activist Betsy Sweet, attorney Bre Kidman and a late-comer, former Google executive Ross LaJeunesse.

For her part, Gideon has been touting her progressive credentials in her fundraising, but she’s stopped shy of supporting Medicare for All or the Green New Deal, though she says climate change and universal health care are important to her.

She’s unequivocal on Trump.

She supports the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry – and accuses Collins of failing to stand up to Trump. “In the times that we’ve needed her the most, since (Trump) has become president, she’s not delivering for us,” Gideon told a gathering in Portland.

Gideon raised $1 million more than Collins in the most recent reporting cycle. But Collins has raised far more money – $8.6 million – the largest of any political candidate in Maine history. Pundits suggest upward of $80 million to $100 million could be spent on this race before Election Day 2020.

Democrats see an opportunity as Collins navigates a potentially precarious path in a fractured state where Trump is reviled in liberal, coastal communities and cheered in the conservative, heavily wooded north.

Try as she might, she won’t be able to avoid Trump, who’s expected to campaign in Maine, where he claimed one of the state’s four electoral votes in 2016.

Josh Tardy, a Bangor attorney and former Republican leader in the Maine House, said Mainers expect Collins to demonstrate “due diligence” on her constitutionally imposed obligations when it comes to impeachment.

But he downplayed the impact in her race.

“I think most people view this impeachment as partisan tit for tat. I don’t think that’s (going) to drive the election needle one way or the other,” he said.

In Lewiston, a former mill town on the Androscoggin River, the senator’s challenges were clear even at a recent event hosted by the local chamber of commerce.

Collins appeared at ease as she handed out Halloween candy to children, posed for selfies and chatted with the adults. But some voters were less so.

Hillary Dow said she was “troubled” by a key vote that incensed Democrats – Collins’ support of Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault during the Supreme Court confirmation process. But she said she continues to back Collins because of the bigger picture – her moderate views, her bipartisanship, her track record.

“I appreciate that she’s honest and fair, and she focuses on what really matters. She’s a good person,” she said.

But one man who sought out Collins for a photo later acknowledged he might not vote at all because he’s so frustrated with national politics.

“I’m not sure if I trust anyone anymore, as far as the politicians go,” said restaurant worker Craig Aleo. “It’s a tough world right now.”

Collins conceded it’s a difficult time for a politician who has made a career trying to broker legislative deals.

“The current environment is very disturbing to me. There’s a lack of focus on what we need to do for the American people, and instead the focus is on power struggles over who’s going to control what,” she said.

Collins hails from Caribou, in the conservative 2nd Congressional District that voted for Trump. That’s where her parents served as mayor, and where her family still runs the S.W. Collins hardware store.

Ousting Collins from Maine politics, where her roots run deep, is no small task.

Cynthia Noyes, who describes herself as “liberal in Republican clothing,” fears that her friend from high school is more vulnerable this election cycle. But the Caribou flower shop owner still supports Collins, and she hopes other independent-minded voters will support her as they have in the past.

“Do what’s right and you’ll be OK. Mainers are like that. If they think you’re doing the right thing, then you’ll be OK,” she said.

Jeffrey Epstein: Two guards suspended and warden removed over death

Metropolitan Correctional CenterThe Metropolitan Correctional Center, where Epstein died

Two prison guards have been suspended and a warden temporarily reassigned at the New York City jail where Jeffrey Epstein died of suspected suicide.

It comes after the FBI opened an investigation into the death of Epstein, who was facing prosecution for sex trafficking when he was found dead.

The suspension, ordered by Attorney General William Barr, came a day after he criticised the jail’s “failure”.

The circumstance surrounding the financier’s death has raised questions.

It remains unclear why Epstein was taken off suicide watch after an attempted suicide last month. He also was supposed to have been checked in on by a guard every 30 minutes.

Before his downfall, Epstein had previously counted many prominent rich and powerful people, including Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, as friends.

What did the Department of Justice say?

In a statement, Mr Barr “directed the Bureau of Prisons to temporarily assign” warden Lamine N’Diaye to a regional office, pending a full investigation.

He will be replaced by James Petrucci, the warden of the federal prison in Otisville, New York.

Courtroom sketch of Jeffrey EpsteinImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionEpstein faced up to 45 years in jail if convicted

Two other staff members who were assigned to Epsteins’ unit at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) have also been placed on leave.

“Additional actions may be taken as the circumstances warrant,” the statement added.

On Tuesday, a union official for workers at the jail told the Washington Post that one of the guards on Epstein’s unit on Saturday – when he died – was not a regular correctional officer, but rather another form of prison employee who was directed to operate as a guard due to staffing shortages.

Both guards working on his unit were working overtime shifts, but it’s unclear whether they were doing so voluntarily.

The union representing federal prison guards, the American Federation of Government Employees Council of Prison Locals, said in a statement after Epstein’s death that many guards are forced to work overtime.

In a statement provided to BBC News, the organisation’s president Eric Young said prison employees who are not correctional officers – such as teachers, nurses, clerical workers – are often made to guard inmates due to a process known as “augmentation”.

What has Trump said?

President Donald Trump told reporters in New Jersey on Tuesday: “I want a full investigation, and that’s what I absolutely am demanding.

“That’s what our attorney general, our great attorney general, is doing. He’s doing a full investigation.”

He also defended his decision to retweet conspiracy theory that suggested that the Clinton family had Epstein killed.

“He’s a very highly respected conservative pundit,” Mr Trump said of comedian Terrence K Williams, who wrote the original post.

“He’s a big Trump fan. And that was a retweet. That wasn’t from me… So I think I was fine.”

Media caption‘Any co-conspirators should not rest easy’

The order comes one day after Mr Barr said he was “frankly angry to learn of the MCC’s failure to adequately secure this prisoner.”

He added: “We will get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability.”

Marlen Ochoa-Lopez murder: Chicago police make three arrests

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson speaks during a press conference at Chicago police headquarters about the arrest of “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett on February 21, 2019 in Chicago, IllinoisChicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson called the murder of Ms Ochoa-Lopez “disgusting and thoroughly disturbing”

Three people have been charged over the murder of a nine months-pregnant teenager whose baby was then cut from her body.

Marlen Ochoa-Lopez, 19, disappeared on 23 April. Her body was found three weeks later on 15 May.

Her baby remains “in grave condition”, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said.

Clarisa Figueroa, 46, and her daughter Desiree Figueroa, 24, have been charged with her murder.

Clarisa Figueroa’s partner Piotr Bobak, 40, was charged with concealment of a homicide.

Detectives say they were first alerted to Clarisa Figueroa on 7 May – two weeks after Ms Ochoa-Lopez’s disappearance – when friends of the teen directed police to her Facebook account where she had made arrangements with Ms Figueroa to pick up baby clothes.

Police allege that Ms Figueroa then lured Ms Ochoa-Lopez inside her home and, with the help of her daughter, strangled the 19-year-old with a cable. Once Ms Ochoa-Lopez had died, her baby was forcibly removed from her womb.

“Words really cannot express how disgusting and thoroughly disturbing these allegations are,” Supt Johnson said.

That same day, Ms Figueroa called paramedics to her home, in the south-west of Chicago, claiming her newborn baby was not breathing.

Ms Figueroa later started a GoFundMe campaign that she claimed was for the funeral of her dying baby, a spokeswoman for Ms Ochoa-Lopez’s family told AP news agency.

Subsequent DNA tests revealed that Ms Ochoa-Lopez was the baby’s mother.

Desiree Figueroa confessed to helping her mother strangle Ms Ochoa-Lopezwith a cable, CBS reported.

Presentational white spacePolice said Ms Ochoa-Lopez had met Clarisa Figueroa previously and had conducted prior exchanges of baby clothes.

On Thursday, Supt Johnson expressed his condolences to Ms Ochoa-Lopez’s family in the wake of her “brutal” murder.

“They should be celebrating the birth of a young baby,” he said. “Instead, they’re mourning the loss of the mother and possibly that young child.”

The three suspects are to appear in court on Friday.

US military reports major spike in sex assaults

Pentagon officials commemorate Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in March 2015Pentagon officials commemorate Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in March 2015

The US military has reported a major spike in sexual assaults despite years of efforts to address the problem.

Figures show 20,500 instances of unwanted sexual contact occurred in 2018, up from 14,900 in 2016 which is the last time a survey was conducted.

Alcohol was involved in one third of cases, and female recruits ages 17 to 24 are at the highest risk of attack.

On Thursday, Acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan directed the military to “criminalise” sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment can fall within other legal violations of military behaviour, but is not yet a “stand-alone” criminal offence.

The directive from Mr Shanahan was among a series of other recommendations, released in a memo on Thursday.

“Sexual assault is illegal and immoral, is inconsistent with the military’s mission and will not be tolerated,” he wrote.

In the US, sexual harassment is illegal, considered a form of sexual discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which also covers discrimination based on race, skin colour, religion and national origin.

What does the report show?

The report released on Thursday surveyed the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, and estimated a total of 20,500 cases in 2018.

The total figure is based reports of attacks as well as an extrapolation of survey data which was gathered through a poll of over 100,000 troops. Researchers say the survey has a 95% level of confidence.

Incidents of unwanted sexual contact – which ranges from groping to rape – rose by around 38% between 2016 and 2018.

Only one out of three cases were reported to authorities, the report found.

In 2006, only one in 14 victims reported sexual assault crimes, the Pentagon said.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Marines acknowledged they had “historically viewed an increase in reporting as an indicator Marines feel more empowered to report more confident in the care victims receive”.

“However, with the number of estimated assaults rising, especially among our young Marines, the Marine Corps must evolve its prevention methods and continue to foster a climate and culture of dignity, respect and trust,” the statement said.

In more than 85% of cases, victims knew their attacker. The majority of cases involved young women whose attacker was often a superior officer.

The report should be “a trip wire”, said Nate Galbreath, Deputy Director of the Department’ of Defense’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.

“This is what tells us that there’s something going on that we need to hone in on,” he told ABC News.

“We’ve got a higher prevalence for women 17 to 24. We’re going to be focusing very, very tightly on that.”

What is the reaction?

Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee’s personnel panel, told the USA Today newspaper that the military “must accept that current programmes are simply not working”.

“Congress must lead the way in forcing the department to take more aggressive approaches to fighting this scourge,” she said, calling for intervention from US lawmakers.

On Thursday, Mr Shanahan revealed some of the recommendations made by the Sexual Assault Accountability and Investigation Task Force, which was created last month after the urging of Senator Martha McSally.

Senator Martha McSally: “I was ashamed and confused”

Senator McSally, who was the first female US fighter pilot to fly in combat, revealed in March that she had been raped by a superior officer while serving in the Air Force.

In response to the report, Mr Shanahan directed the US Department of Defence “criminalise” sexual harassment “to combat this scourge”.

He detailed prevention, accountability and support efforts in order to “eliminate” sexual assault, including new methods of identifying repeat offenders.

“We must, and will, do better,” he wrote in the memo.

It is unclear if he would need congressional approval to make changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice – the US military’s legal code, to make the offence a “stand-alone crime”.

In his memo, Mr Shanahan also announced plans to train commanders in a new programme to uncover serial sex offenders.

“To put it bluntly, we are not performing to the standards and expectations we have for ourselves or for each other,” Mr Shanahan said.

“This is unacceptable. We cannot shrink from facing the challenge head on.”

In a series of tweets, Gen Robert B. Neller, the highest ranking officer in the US Marine Corps, joined in condemning the behaviour captured by the study.

According to the report, compared with the Navy, Army, Air force and Coast guard, the Marines had the highest rates of sexual assault throughout the US Armed Forces – sitting at 11%.

“Marines know that sexual assault is a crime,” Gen Neller wrote. “We are better than this.”

Democratic Senator and 2020 presidential contender Kirsten Gillibrand also responded on Twitter, calling on Congress to take action where the defence department has “repeatedly failed”.

Sen Gillibrand has been an outspoken advocate of victims of sexual assault and has pressed for legislation to make it easier to prosecute sexual violence in the military.

In her tweets, she cited a 2013 statement from the chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – the highest US military post – that called sexual assault in the military a “crisis”.

Mohamed Noor, US policeman guilty of Australian Justine Damond’s murder

Mohamed Noor pictured in two police mugshotsMohamed Noor was taken into custody upon his conviction

A former policeman in the US state of Minnesota has been found guilty of murdering an unarmed Australian woman.

Mohamed Noor shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond as she approached his patrol car to report a possible rape behind her Minneapolis home on 15 July 2017.

Noor, 33, testified last week that he opened fire because he feared he and his partner were being ambushed.

Ms Damond, 40, a yoga instructor from Sydney, was engaged and was due to marry a month after the shooting.

The death drew international criticism and Australia’s prime minister at the time, Malcolm Turnbull, said it was “inexplicable”.

Noor was handcuffed and taken into custody immediately upon being convicted by a jury on Tuesday of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

He was acquitted of the most serious charge of second-degree murder with intent to kill.

Australian woman Justine DamondJustine Damond

The trial heard the victim, a dual US-Australian citizen, lay dying from a gunshot wound just over a minute after ending a phone conversation with her fiance.

She had told Don Damond that police had just arrived after she called them to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind their home. No such attack was ever found to have occurred.

Noor took the stand last week to say he recalled seeing a blonde female in a pink T-shirt approach his squad car on the night of the shooting.

He said he believed there was an imminent threat after he heard a loud bang and saw Ms Damond with her right arm raised.

Noor said his partner, Officer Matthew Harrity, shouted “Oh Jesus!” and fumbled with his gun in its holster before “he turned to me with fear in his eyes”.

The defendant said he “had to make a split-second decision” and shot Ms Damond across his partner through the car window.

Justine Damond’s family hold a silent vigil at a beach in Sydney last year

Noor told the court that upon realising he had shot an unarmed woman he “felt like my whole world came crashing down”.

Prosecutors questioned whether the loud bang was real, pointing out that neither Noor nor his partner initially mentioned anything at the scene about hearing such a noise.

Ms Damond’s fingerprints were not found on the squad car, the court heard.

She had moved to the Midwestern city to marry her boyfriend, Don Damond, and had adopted his surname ahead of their nuptials.

Mr Damond was in Las Vegas, Nevada, when investigators called him to say she was dead.

Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor in court on 2 AprilNoor joined the police force in 2015

He told the court he learned from a second phone call that she had been shot by a police officer.

Mr Damond said contacting her family in Australia to tell them the news was the “worst phone call” he ever had to make.

Noor is a former Somalian refugee whose family moved to the US and settled in Minneapolis.

He joined the police force in 2015, but was sacked after being charged in the shooting.

The fallout also cost Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau her job and was a factor in the election defeat of the city’s mayor a few months later.

The Damond family have filed a civil lawsuit against the city and several police officers seeking $50m (£38m) in damages.

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo apologised to Damond’s friends and family in a statement released after Tuesday’s verdict was read.

“This was indeed a sad and tragic incident that has affected family, friends, neighbours, the City of Minneapolis and people around the world, most significantly in her home country of Australia,” he said.

Sacramento Kings coach Luke Walton accused of sexually assaulting reporter

NBA coach Luke Walton

Luke Walton is accused of sexual assault during his time as assistant coach at the Golden State Warriors

A National Basketball Association (NBA) coach is being sued for the alleged sexual assault of a sports reporter, US media report.

In the lawsuit, obtained by TMZ and ESPN, Kelli Tennant alleges Sacramento Kings coach Luke Walton forced himself on her in a California hotel room.

At the time he was assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors, another California NBA team, says the lawsuit.

In a statement, Mr Walton’s lawyer called the accusations “baseless”.

According to legal documents obtained by US media, Ms Tennant met Mr Walton in his suite at the Hotel Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica to give him a copy of her 2014 book.

Sports reporter Kelli Tennant
Kelli Tennant worked as a broadcaster on Spectrum SportsNet at the time of the alleged incident

Mr Walton had written the foreword to the publication, The Transition: Every Athlete’s Guide to Life After Sports.

No specific date for the alleged incident was stated in the lawsuit, according to US media.

The two had reportedly had a working relationship, stemming from Mr Walton’s time as a guest on Spectrum SportsNet, a US regional cable sports channel where Ms Tennant used to work.

She also knew Mr Walton’s wife, according to US media.

The legal action says Ms Tennant had viewed Mr Walton as a “trusted mentor and colleague”, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Kelli Tennant's Instagram page
A photo from Ms Tennant’s Instagram page, which has been flooded with comments following the suit

Upon Ms Tennant’s arrival at the hotel, the lawsuit reportedly says, Mr Walton invited her to his room, ostensibly so they would not be seen by any Golden State Warriors players.

Once inside the suite, the legal action says that Mr Walton “pinned Ms Tennant on the bed, placing his hips and legs over her body”, before groping her chest and groin, according to US media who have reviewed the court documents.

“She was afraid she was about to be raped,” the legal action reportedly says.

According to US media, Mr Walton’s lawyer released a statement categorically denying the allegations.

“The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim, and her claim is not credible,” said Mark Baute.

Mr Walton was hired this month by the Sacramento Kings, after leaving the Los Angeles Lakers, where he had been head coach since 2016.

Mr Walton had previously played 10 seasons for the Lakers, before beginning his NBA coaching career with the Golden State Warriors in 2014.

All three teams responded to the allegations.

The Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors said they were aware of the report and had no further comment.

The Los Angeles Lakers statement said the alleged incident took place before he became their head coach.

“At no time before or during his employment here was this allegation reported to the Lakers,” it said.

“If it had been, we would have immediately commenced an investigation and notified the NBA.”

Since news of the lawsuit broke, Ms Tennant, a former volleyball player for the University of Southern California, had her Instagram page flooded with comments, many of them abusive.

ESPN reports the NBA has launched an investigation of its own into the alleged event.