Melissa Schuman Accused Backstreet Boy Nick Carter of Rape. And Then ‘the Vultures Came Out.’
The pop star, formerly of the girl group Dream, accused Carter of rape. She opens up to Amy Zimmerman about the harassment, doxxing, and industry silence she’s endured since.
When she was 12, Melissa Schuman earned a place in Dream, a girl band that made its mark in the early aughts with hits like “This Is Me” and “He Loves U Not.” None other than Diddy signed Dream to Bad Boy Records, and they joined a pantheon of pop groups that were peaking in the 2000s. It was a whirlwind. “Basically, I was in Dream from 12 to 18,” Schuman told The Daily Beast during a recent Skype call from Los Angeles.
The all-American boys and girls who were being mass marketed to middle schoolers across the country made up a tight-knit community. “We all knew each other or knew of each other, we all toured together,” Schuman explained. “In regards to the industry and the people who were working behind the scenes, it’s all the same people. People don’t realize that there’s a very small group of managers that are reputable, that can really get you where it is that you hope to go. It’s a very small industry, everybody knows each other, and it’s very interconnected.”
Schuman’s group toured more with *NSYNC and Britney Spears than they did with Nick Carter’s group, the Backstreet Boys, “So my encounters with BSB were pretty limited. There were maybe a few times, I think at one point I bumped into them on the red carpet.” But one day, as Schuman writes on her blog, Melissa Explains It All, she and Carter were set up on a phone call—literally.
“The first time we spoke was briefly over the phone while I was filming ‘This Is Me Remix’ music video with my group DREAM and then boss, P. Diddy,” she writes. “My label informed me that this person’s rep had reached out to them and he shown romantic interest in me and would like to set up a chat over the phone. My label reps sat in on the call, anticipating a spark between the two of us.”
“The reps did that a lot,” Schuman told The Daily Beast. “It was all about promoting the band and trying to get more and more press.”
Schuman has spoken out about the sexual harassment she encountered as a teenager in the music industry. On her blog, she references a crude comment from a record executive and a time when she was pressured, as an 18-year-old, to do a near-naked photoshoot for a men’s magazine. As a member of Dream, Schuman was “over-sexualized.” She recalled, “I was essentially told over and over again in the group that that was really my only value in the group.”
“It gave off the wrong impression of who I am and who I was back then,” she continued. “I was a virgin, I had very conservative Christian values. Essentially I was playing a part in the group. It felt like playing a character. I guess that’s how I coped with my role, even though I was miserable.” Attempts to push back against being typecast as a teenage sex symbol “didn’t go over well.”
“And I think in some ways, as soon as I turned 18, it was almost like the vultures came out,” Schuman told The Daily Beast. “Because all of a sudden I was ‘legal.’ And I wasn’t prepared for that. I was completely naive. Looking back, I feel sorry for my 18-year-old self.”
In 2002, the 18-year-old Schuman was shooting the teen horror flick The Hollow alongside Nick Carter. In a lengthy November blog post, Schuman alleged that Carter sexually assaulted her while they were hanging out with friends at his apartment on a day off from work. Her testimony reads, in part, “He threw me on the bed and climbed on top of me. Again, I told him that I was a virgin and I didn’t want to have sex…He was relentless, refusing to take my no’s for an answer. He was heavy, too heavy to get out from under him. Then I felt it, he put something inside of me.”
The alleged assault, which Carter denies, was further complicated by Schuman and Carter’s working relationship.
“There was no blueprint to how to protect yourself in the situation that I was in,” she began. “I did everything that I could. I started by avoiding him completely. That was my first response, to just stay away, never be in the same room, never be in the same space.” She even went so far as to lock herself in her trailer. “I did everything I could within my power to protect myself.”
“I told my friends and family, I told a lot of people,” Schuman added. “It wasn’t that I was silent in my own life, I just didn’t have the platform or the ability to speak publicly about it.”
Not that she didn’t consider going public with her story or pressing charges. As Schuman writes on her blog, “I confided in my then manager, Nils Larsen, that I wanted to come forward. He heard me out and said he would do some investigation and would try to find me a good attorney as I intended to press charges. He later informed me that my abuser, who’s name I will disclose later in this article, had the most powerful litigator in the country.”
“He was right,” the post continues. “I didn’t have the money, the clout or access to an attorney who was powerful enough to stand up against my abuser’s legal counsel. I was told I would likely be buried in humiliation, accused of being fame hungry, and it would ultimately hurt me professionally as well as publicly.”
“When I spoke to my manager about it, one of the things that he had mentioned was, ‘You realize that this will shut down production,’” Schuman told The Daily Beast. “Because we were in the middle of filming the movie. So that’s heavy. It’s like, God, do I want to do that? Do I want to shut down production and then everybody in production is going to know, and then you’re dealing with the added trauma of that? I walked away feeling like the smartest thing to do was to do nothing.”
“Not only was I assaulted, I was now at risk of that experience completely destroying my dreams. What do you do in that situation?”
She continued, “I was told by so many people that I had no other recourse. What do you do, when you’re told and you believe that you have no other recourse? You’re told to just suck it up and move on and make the best of it. And that’s what I did.”
Schuman said that her immediate urge, in addition to avoiding her abuser, was to “protect myself from being further impacted by what had happened.” However, continuing to pursue her solo career aspirations quickly put Schuman back into her abuser’s orbit. She began working with Kenneth Crear, who also managed Carter. Schuman explained to The Daily Beast that Crear actually sought her out. “I knew that [Carter] was on the same roster,” she continued, “but it’s very common for an agent or manager to have a whole roster of people. It doesn’t mean that their roster will ever meet or even talk to each other. So I didn’t know that by signing with this manager, that I was going to be putting myself in a position where I couldn’t continue to maintain the distance that I had worked so hard to maintain.”
“Essentially what ended up happening was I became vulnerable again.”
Crear had Schuman record a duet with Carter, which they performed together at a label showcase. She writes, “Again, what was I supposed to do? I couldn’t tell my manager that his best friend had raped me so I won’t record this song. I tried to justify that maybe something good to come out of something very bad. Maybe this song might help me get signed as a solo artist and I could move on and put everything behind me.”
After a tense interaction between Schuman and Carter at the showcase, Schuman was essentially ghosted by her manager. When they finally spoke, “I could tell by his tone that he was no longer interested in working for me and I couldn’t help but wonder if Nick had any influence in it.”
Asked if she believes that Carter may have sabotaged her career in some way, Schuman responded, “It was a question that I still have. I could be wrong, but my gut at the time—I suspected that. It was just a complete 180 from the manager. My music career never recovered from that.”
“It wasn’t just the way my management responded, it was also how it psychologically and emotionally affected me. It wasn’t something that I felt like I even wanted to pursue anymore, because it was so incredibly painful. And it felt impossible to overcome.”
She concluded, “My response was not just emotional and mental, but it was physical. I felt like I couldn’t sing anymore.”
Reflecting on the alleged sexual assault so many years later, Schuman draws out connections and consequences that her 18-year-old self never could have fathomed. “The effects are tremendous. It’s not just the assault. It affects the rest of your life. It’s still affecting my life, that’s why I’m here talking to you about it! The one thing that I have, is I have my voice back. And that means more to me than anything else, is that I am empowered, and I’m not shutting up, and I’m not going away. I’m not scared anymore.”
Schuman came forward after reading a Radar Online piece, “Nick Carter Once Investigated for Sexually Assaulting Fan, 20, at House Party.” Before the story about a 2006 police incident report was published—no charges were brought—Schuman thought that she was the only one. “I thought that I put myself in that position, that it was my fault,” she told The Daily Beast. “I couldn’t believe that there would be other people. When I saw the article, and I saw the similarities, with the bathroom…” she trailed off. “I completely came undone. I was enraged. And it was written that it was a fan, someone who had less power and influence than even I had. And I was angry for her. And I felt at that moment that it wasn’t about just me anymore, and I had a responsibility to do and say something.”
Schuman says that she has been contacted by other victims. “I think the people who have contacted me and who have shared their story with me, I feel empowered to speak for them,” Schuman told The Daily Beast, choosing her words very carefully. “They have a right to not say anything. I think that a way that the media has done a disservice, is there’s this sort of pressure to make all of these people come forward, because there needs to be 60 of us. And that’s not necessarily healthy. My first priority is to support these other people, their wellness and their health. I will continue to be a voice not just for myself but for other people, because not everybody feels safe enough to speak out. Maybe one day they will.”
We discuss the ever-rising bar that a Me Too case has to clear to be considered valid in the court of public opinion—how every accuser is expected to have an army of co-survivors beside her, how a Facebook status must be legitimized by a police report.
“It’s very upsetting to me that I’ve had multiple tell me, force them to come out and say something!” Schuman insisted, referring to the women she’s been in contact with. “Why is my voice not enough? Why isn’t the voice of the underage girl in Marathon, Florida, who went to the police not enough? Why is the Radar Online account not enough?”
When Schuman filed a police report in February, it wasn’t to prove anything to anybody else. “I wanted to do that for my 18-year-old self,” she explained. “My 18-year-old self wanted to do that when it happened and didn’t feel like it was an option. I didn’t feel strong enough, I didn’t feel safe enough to do it then.”
“I did it for me, I did it for the other women, and to protect anybody else in the future.”
As The Daily Beast previously reported, the Backstreet Boys have continued to make media appearances even after Schuman came forward. They recently appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and performed at Good Morning America’s Summer Concert Series. According to a press release, the Backstreet Boys will perform live from the VMAs red carpet pre-show on August 20. On social media, Schuman has been fearless about calling out enablers for providing her abuser with high-profile platforms.
“Something that I’ve been accused of is doing this for money or doing this for fame,” she told The Daily Beast. “What I find to be ironic is that the people who continue to enable him, enabling my abuser—it’s all about money. It’s why people continue to turn a blind eye. Because if they can continue to profit…this isn’t a moral issue for them. It’s a money issue.” She added, “I hope the world is taking note and questioning why some people are held accountable more than others. The music industry has enabled abusers forever. Unless people start to stop supporting these people, it’s never going to change.”
And then there are the personal attacks. Recently, fellow Backstreet Boy Brian Littrell spoke out on the sexual-assault allegations in support of Nick Carter, telling TMZ, “Unfortunately there are fame seekers that are out there. This situation, he’s been forthright and honest with us and we have to stand behind our bandmate.”
“They can continue to use outdated accusations like ‘fame hungry’ and ‘money hungry,’” Schuman laughed. “All they have is name calling!” Still, she wondered, “How do you fight against so much hate and so many lies? Especially when I’m just one person. He has a whole team of people behind him that work for him, support him. I have myself and my family and my friends.”
The harassment that survivors face when they come forward, particularly against powerful and influential people, is well documented. Asked about the online abuse she’s gotten since sharing her story, Schuman declared, “I don’t even know where to start.”
“I think what is unique for me is that my abuser has a slew of fans, people who support him no matter what. And they’ve made it their life’s mission to destroy me. Hashtag with Melissa Schuman is a liar, release my personal home and phone number, threaten my family including my eight-year-old son, drive by my house. And the comments made by Brian, and AJ, and Sharna Burgess only emboldens that harassment.” She continued, “The harassment is non-stop. The harassment is about getting people to shut up. If you support Melissa Schuman, shut up. If you don’t support him, shut up. I mean, that’s what I was told to do: shut up. And that message is dangerous. Because if there is anybody out there who is even considering speaking out, whether it’s against my abuser or another powerful person in the industry, this sets a horrible example.”
She was particularly disturbed by a blog post that Carter’s Dancing with the Stars partner Sharna Burgess tweeted out with the caption “please know your facts before stating your opinion.” Schuman says that the blog post, which appears to question Schuman’s story and her motives, was written by a woman who also works for NickCarter.net. “It was written by somebody who writes for his official website,” Schuman told The Daily Beast. “That was not transparent. I think that blog is dangerous, because all it does is write down everything that I did to adapt, and use it against me. And that is a portion of why people continue to be silent, because they think to themselves, what did I do in the past that somebody could use against me?”
Schuman has yet to be publicly embraced by power players in the music industry—an industry that has proven itself to be hostile to survivors and kind to abusers. “To be quite honest, I feel a bit angry,” she said. “Just two years ago, me and my group were on the My2k tour with 98 degrees and O-Town and Ryan Cabrera. And all these groups are continuing to work with my abuser. It’s a boys’ club...I’ve had people in the industry reach out to me on the down low and let me know that they believe me and they support me, but have they spoken out publicly yet? No. My hope is that one day they will.”
“I understand the business aspect for these groups and why they continue to align, because BSB has power. So if you want to continue to work, and you’re in a boy band or ‘man band,’ you have to align yourself with powerful people. You don’t speak out against them, that’s silly. Just look what happened to me!”
But while Carter and his bandmates appear to be eluding public scrutiny, the Santa Monica Police Department recently presented Schuman’s case to the D.A.’s office, where it is reportedly under review. Asked to comment on the sexual-assault case, Schuman offered, “All I can say is that I am incredibly grateful to the Santa Monica Police Department. No matter the outcome, my goal is accomplished. It’s documented. And for that, I can walk away and be proud of myself, for doing something I thought I could never do.”
Carter, meanwhile, has not reached out to her, nor does she want him to: “He can stay far away from me.”