Actress Rosario Dawson, along with her family, is being sued by a former transgender employee for assault, battery, and violation of civil rights.
Family friend Dedrek Finley began working for Dawson and her family in 2017 after they had him move to Los Angeles to renovate their house. According to Dedrek, he has known the family for at least 20 years. Shortly after moving into a North Hollywood home rented by the family, he felt comfortable enough to come out and share the news of his transition to Rosario, her mother Isabel, stepfather Gregory, and her uncle Gustavo.
However, the family did not give Dedrek the respect he had hoped for.
According to the lawsuit, shortly after coming out,
“The family misgendered him multiple times each day with the deliberate indifference as to the appropriate way to address Mr. Finley.”
And Rosario’s Uncle Gustavo continuously screamed at Dedrek and told him, “you’re not a man,” and “you only think you’re a man.”
Dedrek assumed he would get some kind of support from his friend Rosario but the lawsuit states that she remained indifferent to the verbal and transphobic abuse her mother and uncle were inflicting on him.
“Rosario was a witness to the misgendering and transphobic verbal abuse by Isabel and Gregory — but Rosario, Mr. Finley’s employer, acted with deliberate indifference and did nothing to correct the situation.”
The lawsuit also states that Rosario said, “you’re a grown woman” when he continued to beg her to stop the abuse from her family.
By April, Dedrek was asked to move out and his pay was reduced. However, when he did not move out in time, that’s when things became incredibly disturbing. Dedrek claims that Rosario’s mother Isabel physically attacked him on April 28, 2018.
“She [Isabel] further threatened Mr. Finley that if he did not move out, she would physically attack him and kill his cat. She then ripped the screen off the window and attempted to remove the venting tube from the air-conditioning unit.”
When Dedrek warned Isabel that he was going to call the police, she reached through the window, grabbed Dedrek by the arm and threw him to the ground.
“Once Mr. Finley was lying helpless on the ground outside, Isabel, who is substantially larger than Mr. Finley, got on top of Mr. Finley’s body and began punching him. While beating Mr. Finley, Isabel screamed, ‘You’re not so much of a man now,’ which was a clear and denigrating reference to Mr. Finley’s gender identity.”
Instead of coming to Dedrek’s aid, the lawsuit claims that Rosario held down Dedrek as her mother continued to beat him.
After the assault, Dedrek was able to obtain a temporary restraining order against Rosario and her mother, but it was dropped due to lack of persecution.
Speaking to NBC News, Dedrek’s attorney Tasha Alyssa Hill said that she and Dedrek tried to talk to Dawson’s family before filing the suit.
“Mr. Finley had a good relationship with the family, did work with them in New York and had a good enough relationship that they invited him to California and offered him a living situation and a full-time working situation for the family. When they did that, they knew him as a lesbian woman. When he came out to California and decided to come out to them as a transgender man, that’s when things started going south.”
The news of the assault comes as a surprise, especially since Dawson’s boyfriend, presidential candidate Corey Booker recently spoke out at a CNN town hall that focused on the fight for LGBTQ rights. He told the crowd,
“We live in a country where we still see regular, everyday violence and intimidation and bullying against Americans, because of who they are.”
What happened to Dedrek was atrocious, but unfortunately, discrimination against transgender workers is a growing problem.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, one in five transgender workers has been discriminated against and in six studies between 1996 and 2006, “20% to 57 % of transgender respondents said they experienced employment discrimination, including being fired, denied a promotion or harassed.”
Both Rosario and Corey have yet to speak on these disturbing allegations, and their silence is deafening. This is a serious matter that needs to be addressed as soon as possible, and Rosario and her family need to take responsibility for their actions.
No amount of compensation can change what happened to Dedrek, but he needs some peace of mind knowing that his abusers are brought to justice.
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Feature photo: Rosario Dawson / Instagram
Alysia Stevenson is a twenty-seven New York City transplant currently living in Florida with her boyfriend and three furbabies. When she’s not writing, you can find her watching beauty tutorials on Youtube or Parks and Rec for the millionth time.