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'Southern Charm' star pays $80K to anti-rape organization following nanny's assault

Thomas Ravenel in court, Sept. 11, 2019. (Pool_ WCSC).jpg
Thomas Ravenel in court, Sept. 11, 2019. (Pool_ WCSC).jpg

CHARLESTON, SC (WCIV) -- Southern Charm star Thomas Ravenel made a substantial payment to a sexual violence victims advocacy group as part of a settlement agreement in an assault case brought by his former nanny.

Court documents show Ravenel agreed to pay $80,000 to the Charleston-based organization People Against Rape. Ravenel pleaded guilty in September to a third-degree assault of Dawn Ledwell.

Ledwell appeared as "Nanny Dawn," alongside Ravenel and his children's mother, Kathryn Dennis, on the Charleston-based Bravo reality television series, Southern Charm.

In 2018, Ledwell accused Ravenel of sexually assaulting her while in a drunken state during a January 2015 encounter at his Charleston home.

Charleston Police in May 2018 pressed a second-degree assault charge against Ravenel based on Ledwell's allegations.

Ledwell also filed a civil lawsuit in December 2018, accusing Ravenel, Bravo and its parent companies, NBCUniversal and Comcast, of negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation and civil conspiracy.

Court records show Ledwell in July agreed to allow Ravenel to plead down to third-degree assault in the criminal case, and drop him from the civil lawsuit.

The plea agreement hinged on a formal apology from Ravenel in court, his promise to make a substantial donation to People Against Rape, his agreement to cooperate in further litigation of the lawsuit and his agreement to pay $45,000 in attorney fees to Ledwell.

Additionally, a judge fined Ravenel $500 and sentenced him to no jail time following the guilty plea in the assault case.

A sworn affidavit Ledwell signed as part of the plea agreement says she came forward in 2018 with sexual assault allegations over the 2015 incident after Kathryn Dennis and others encouraged her to do so.

It was then, Ledwell says, when she "ultimately recognized" the encounter in Ravenel's home in January 2015 was "sexual assault."

Ravenel paints a different picture about the timeline, saying Ledwell told him she considered his actions assault when she stopped working for him in late 2015.

According to Ravenel, he recognized he made an unwelcome advance and apologized for the incident. He says he offered Ledwell a severance payment and asked her to sign a non-disparagement agreement, but she refused.

"While I reiterate that I have never intentionally sexually assaulted anyone, I also acknowledge that by making an unwelcome advance to Dawn in my home, while she was babysitting my daughter, I behaved improperly and caused her immediate and lasting emotional distress," Ravenel wrote in his affidavit. "I unqualifiedly apologize for having done so."

"While his memory differs in critical ways from my own regarding the incident, I accept Thomas' apology for his unwarranted physical contact that evening, and I believe him when he says he never intended to sexually assault me," Ledwell wrote in her affidavit.

Ravenel admits also in his affidavit that he and Dennis often used Ledwell as a go-between when they were fighting, putting her in an "untenable position" that likely contributed to her quitting and harboring ill feelings.

People Against Rape issued the following statment when asked to comment:

"People Against Rape (“PAR”) has been servicing adult survivors in the Lowcountry for the past 45 years. It is PAR’s policy to not comment as it relates to any client. PAR does acknowledge based off public records that it was the recipient of an $80,000 donation by and through the generosity of one of its clients and are grateful that it can use these funds to help further service our community."