Last night on Twitter, Nev Schulman, the host of MTV's excruciating internet romance show Catfish, made a joke about Ray Rice, the NFL running back who has been banned by the league for knocking his wife unconscious. The joke was fucked up for many reasons, not the least of which is that Nev himself has a history of violence against women.
This is not a fact that is in dispute. No, Nev readily admits to being expelled from Sarah Lawrence College after punching a woman in the face. Here he is telling the story in his book In Real Life: Love, Lies & Identity in the Digital Age:
But, of course, this is only Nev's side of the story: He was just taking photos at a party, and all of a sudden he was being choked by his camera strap, so he innocently threw a punch and—whoops!—he happened to hit a woman. But people who were at Sarah Lawrence at the time, and at the annual Sleaze Ball dance in question, tell a much different tale.
The other side of the story—which is consistent across archived blog posts and new interviews conducted by Gawker—goes as follows: Nev was taking photos of the school dance when he began to photograph two women who were kissing each other. One of the women, who had not consented to being photographed, pushed Nev's camera out of the way, at which point he punched her directly in the face.
Here is how one woman, who was a Sarah Lawrence student at the time, put the story to us:
He was taking pictures at the "sleaze ball," a (now canceled) annual dance at SLC. He started taking pictures of two girls kissing. One of the girls asked him to stop and grabbed his camera. He punched her in the face.
This version of the events also popped up on Tumblr in a post written in 2013 by an-ex Sarah Lawrence student.
from my recollection, there was a party or something going on, and the woman was making out with her girlfriend, when Nev walks up and WITHOUT PERMISSION BEGINS TAKING PICTURE OF THEM. she asks him to stop, things quickly escalate, i think maybe she might have tried grabbing at the camera, which is a perfectly understandable thing to do when you're at a college party and some person unkown [sic] to you walks up and starts taking pictures of you and your partner sharing an intimate moment together, again, WITHOUT PERMISSION…..and he ends up punching her in the face.
As for the punch itself, the student who was DJing the party that night (who wishes to remain anonymous) tells Gawker that Nev's story is "definitely bullshit." Here is his description of what transpired.
I saw the punch. Punches on dancefloors, and I've seen lots of them, look very specific from a DJ booth or a stage. I saw Nev deck a girl, is basically what I saw. From my view, Nev definitely saw who he was punching. I haven't read his book, but if he claimed he was reacting in some wild blind swipe, that's definitely bullshit. Nev was tall for SLC, he was completely square to her, so much that I couldn't see her until after the punch. That's how I know he saw her.
I was the DJ of almost everything at the school, I also don't drink or do any drugs, this combination meant that I saw a lot of these things. In this case, I remember Nev getting to the party, I remember him taking pictures, including mine. And then a while later, I remember becoming aware of something happening on the dance floor. When you're DJing your field of vision gets pulled upward like that, and I remember getting a pretty good angle of seeing Nev's fist fly, and then a second later could see his target. Worst of all, he then bolted, which caused security to accidentally grab a few of the wrong people.
According to the writer of the Tumblr post, the victim was left with visible facial injuries.
i remember seeing the pictures she posted to facebook afterwards, her eye was bruised and swollen, and there was a cut on her nose. like, this was no bullshit punch, he pretty much fucked her up.
The circumstances under which Nev was kicked out of Sarah Lawrence are slightly murky. In the above passage, Nev notes that his mom had "already put her neck out" for him and that his dismissal "hurt her legacy at the school she loved so much."
Nev's mother was able to exert some sort of influence at Sarah Lawrence, though how much depends on who you listen to. Nev admits this much earlier in the book.
The belief going around Sarah Lawrence at the time—based both on interviews we conducted and internet scuttlebutt like this comment left on Rich Juzwiak's blog in 2010—was that Schulman's mother attempted to wield her power to keep her son in school, and that the school was initially reticent to look into the incident because of Nev's mother's status.
We can't confirm what happened between Nev and his family and the school after he punched a woman in the face at a school dance. But we do know that he punched a woman in the face at a school dance, on purpose, and then made light of domestic violence on Twitter last night. Fuck this guy.
UPDATE: Via representatives, Schulman has released the following statement:
"In college, I was in a situation where I was forced to defend myself, after being suddenly attacked. Charges were brought, but my case was almost immediately dismissed as this was clearly a case of self-defense. My post was meant to raise awareness and support for everyone affected by the awful abuses of domestic violence."
[image via Twitter]