A second woman has spoken out against LA Times Beijing Bureau Chief Jonathan Kaiman, who resigned as the President of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) in January after a former friend accused him of sexual misconduct.
Felicia Sonmez, a former Wall Street Journal editor and former Washington Post reporter, wrote an email to the FCCC board that she requested be sent to all members of the club. The board sent it to members on Tuesday evening.
She accused Kaiman of sexual misconduct after she drove him home on her scooter after last September’s FCCC summer party. At the time, Kaiman was the FCCC’s president and Sonmez was a board member.
“Even though parts of the evening were consensual, while on the way, Jon escalated things in a way that crossed the line,” she wrote.
She alleged that he lifted up her dress and began digitally penetrating her without her consent while on the way home.
She wrote that she told him no but he forcefully continued until she could pull him away. He then started unbuckling his belt and taking off his shorts. “We were on a public street, it was dark and no one was around. Jon is much bigger than me, and it took me repeatedly telling him no and pushing him away for him to finally stop.”
She said he tried to do so again when they had reached his residence, and she again told him “no” repeatedly. Sonmez said she then went up to his apartment – though with no intention of having sex with him – and he had unprotected sex with her: “I was so drunk that I definitely should not have been driving, and many parts of the night remain hazy in my memory. I don’t remember what was going through my head as I went upstairs, whether I wanted to take a nap or get some water or maybe make out. I am certain I did not go up there to have unprotected sex with Jon.”
“When I later asked him his recollections of this part of the night, he said that things were hazy but he acknowledged that he had been ‘brutish’ with me,” she wrote.
“He briefly performed oral sex on me and then he had unprotected sex with me. I am devastated by the fact that I was not more sober so that I could say with absolute certainty whether what happened that night was rape.”
Sonmez told HKFP she did not go to the police: “It was over the course of months, from September 2017 to January 2018, that I realised what happened to me was wrong. By the time it had fully sunk in, I was back in the U.S. for a long visit and had already decided to leave Beijing. So, it didn’t seem like going to the Beijing police was a viable option.”
HKFP has contacted the LA Times and Kaiman for comment.
Sonmez’s account came after law student Laura Tucker posted an account in January of a 2013 incident, in which she said Kaiman had pressured her into having sex with him. Kaiman then posted an apology on his Twitter account.
Tucker wrote that she felt pressured into having sex with Kaiman after they went to her apartment after a night out. Though she changed her mind and voiced her lack of consent several times, Kaiman allegedly refused to leave, and – in the end – she said the “easiest, least confrontational way forward was to place male satisfaction above my own desires and to go back to the bed… We had sex, and I felt gross for all of it.”
Sonmez said she chose to speak out as she was dissatisfied with the FCCC board’s handling of Tucker’s allegations, and wished to give the board a chance to give an explanation and apologise to its members before the club elected its new leadership at a meeting on Tuesday night. She added that she did not want Tucker’s experience to be dismissed as a one-off incident.
The FCCC issued a brief statement on its Twitter account after Kaiman stepped down. Sonmez said she felt as though the response erased her experience, which was raised to the board by a friend of hers.
FCCC President Jon Kaiman has informed the board he will resign, effective immediately. Vice President John Sudworth now assumes the position of president. The board thanks Jon for his hard work, enthusiasm and many contributions to the club.
— Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (@fccchina) January 11, 2018
Sonmez added that screenshots of a WeChat group for a mostly male football club – in which many foreign correspondents participate – were circulated after Tucker came forward, and they showed several members denigrating Tucker.
“[G]iven the vitriol that was directed at Laura. I have wondered whether such an incident could have been mitigated by a stronger FCCC board response. I believe the board passed up an important opportunity to let its members know that sexual misconduct will not be tolerated, and that the FCCC is committed to being a safe and supportive environment for its female members,” she wrote.
In a statement to its members sent out Tuesday evening, the FCCC said that the minutes of its board meeting in January failed to mention that it had advised Kaiman to step down and that they had considered a second complaint against him: “The board is deeply sorry for the damage caused both to Felicia Sonmez and the membership by its decision against releasing a full and transparent account of the board meeting preceding Mr. Kaiman’s resignation immediately after it took place, and for not making the reasons for Kaiman’s departure clear.”
Update: This article has been updated to include the positions of Kaiman and Sonmez in the FCCC at the time of the alleged incident.