Editor’s note: This story contains graphic details about sexual assault allegations.
HOUSTON (Reuters) — The woman who filed the first lawsuit alleging sexual assault by Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson disclosed her identity and spoke to the media Tuesday.
Massage therapist Ashley Solis tearfully told her story at a press conference arranged by Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, who is representing her, and 21 other women who have filed suits.
“I’m here to take back the power and take back control,” Solis said. “I’m a survivor of assault and harassment.”
Solis said Watson assaulted her at her home on March 30, 2020.
“Some days I feel like a hero, other days I feel like a failure,” she said. “I can no longer practice the profession I love the most without my hands shaking during the session. I got into massage therapy to heal people. To heal their minds and bodies. To bring peace to their souls. Deshaun Watson has robbed me of that.”
Solis said she has experienced anxiety, depression and panic attacks.
“We were all deceived into thinking Deshaun Watson was a good guy, and unfortunately we know that good guys can do terrible things,” she said.
At the news conference, a statement from a second woman, Lauren Baxley, was read. Baxley said she felt “powerless and trapped” when Watson exposed himself to her and touched her with his genitals.
“My anger and disgust burned within me, both at you and at myself,” she said. “My false sense of shame and the way I had been cornered did not sit well with my outspoken nature against abuse of any kind.”
Buzbee said Solis has spoken with the Houston Police Department. The department acknowledged last week that Watson is the subject of a police investigation.
Watson, 25, has denied the accusations of the women who allege he used massages as pretext to prey on them. In the lawsuits, he is accused of exposing his genitals to the women and forcing at least one to perform oral sex.
Watson agreed to a four-year, $156 million contract extension last September, and he subsequently produced his third consecutive Pro Bowl season for the Texans. However, he requested a trade in January.
“People say that I’m doing this just for money,” Solis said Tuesday. “That is false. I come forward now so that Deshaun Watson does not assault another woman.”
The Texans have been largely quiet since the first lawsuit was filed last month. But on Monday night, team ownership released a letter to season-ticket holders.
“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,” read the letter from the McNair family. “We respect the legal process and will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
The letter continued: “While we await the conclusion of these investigations, we express our strong stance against any form of sexual assault. Our family and the entire Houston Texans organization are deeply troubled by any form of abuse and we condemn this type of behavior. We will continue to commit resources to help prevent abusive behaviors from occurring in the community and ensure respect for all.
“Over the past 10 years, the Houston Texans Foundation, the McNair Foundation and the McNair family have donated more than $10 million to organizations whose focus centers on strengthening families, preventing abuse and providing much-needed services to those who have fallen victim to domestic violence or sexual abuse. This is deeply personal to our family and remains a priority.”
The NFL investigation is continuing.
Copyright Field Level Media via Reuters World News Service