‘I WAS FULLY PARALYZED…’
‘Silicon Valley’ Star T.J. Miller Accused of Sexually Assaulting and Punching a Woman
Ever since his college days, allegations of sexual violence have followed the acclaimed comic and ‘Silicon Valley’ actor. Now, his accuser comes forward.
Warning: This story includes graphic content.
The accusations were eventually addressed by a student court at George Washington University and have been buzzed about in Hollywood and stand-up circles for years.
“He just tried a lot of things without asking me, and at no point asked me if I was all right,” the woman told The Daily Beast. “He choke[d] me, and I kept staring at his face hoping he would see that I was afraid and [that he] would stop… I couldn’t say anything.”
Miller’s alleged victim, who asked to remain anonymous, said she is coming forward now in part because of the societal awakening to issues of sexual assault and harassment that has come in the aftermath of misconduct allegations that have rocked the entertainment industry. The Daily Beast is withholding her identity because of her fears of retribution. But for the purposes of this piece, we will call her Sarah.
Miller has told friends over the years that he was wrongfully accused. And in a statement to The Daily Beast, Miller and his wife, Kate, denied any wrongdoing. Instead, they cast themselves as the victims.
Sarah “began again to circulate rumors online once [my and Kate’s] relationship became public. Sadly she is now using the current climate to bandwagon and launch these false accusations again,” the Millers wrote. “It is unfortunate that she is choosing this route as it undermines the important movement to make women feel safe coming forward about legitimate claims against real known predators.”
But it’s not just Sarah who has come forward. The Daily Beast has corroborated details of her story—which includes two separate incidents—with five GW contemporaries and spoke to numerous associates of both her and Miller.
Two of the GW contemporaries say they were in the off-campus house where the incidents allegedly occurred. The contemporaries later testified in student court about hearing the sound of violent thuds or seeing bruises on Sarah.
Three other contemporaries said they comforted and counseled Sarah in the aftermath of the incidents. Matt Lord was one of them. An ex-boyfriend of Sarah’s, he told The Daily Beast that he continues to believe her story more than a decade after the fact.
“I attended George Washington University for undergraduate studies from 2000 until December 2003... I had a romantic relationship with [this] woman, who spoke with me about T.J. Miller sexually assaulting her,” Lord, who currently works as an attorney in Montague, Massachusetts, wrote in a statement to The Daily Beast. “At the time I believed the statements she made regarding the assault by Mr. Miller, and I continue to believe the statements she made are true. She was engaged in student conduct proceedings regarding the sexual assault, and I remember the emotional toll that the assault and the subsequent conduct hearings placed on her.”
In the years since, Miller has attempted to address the lingering allegations by occasionally making light of them. He’s privately joked about committing violence against a woman in his past, according to three sources in the comedy world. Perhaps that is why some female performers and comedy professionals tell The Daily Beast that they have declined to work with Miller, citing a perceived history of abusive behavior.
The incidents took place at GW where Miller was a student and Sarah was taking classes but not matriculating. They fell in with the same GW comedy troupe, receSs, during which time they struck up a relationship. “I felt relatively safe with T.J. at the time,” Sarah explained.
But months into their relationship, which started in the fall of 2001, Sarah said the first troubling encounter took place. She recalled having “a lot to drink” and admitted that there are “parts of [the incident] I don’t remember.” She stressed that “it is important to me to cop to that… [and] I’m not interested in forcing a pretend memory on anyone… 15 years later, I remain terrified of accusing someone of something they didn’t do, but I have a visual and physical memory of that.”
However, Sarah said she has a distinct memory that as they were “fooling around” at her place, Miller began “shaking me violently” and punched her in the mouth during sex.
Sarah said that she woke up the following morning with a fractured tooth and a bloodied lip. When she asked Miller about it that morning, he claimed, according to Sarah, that she had simply fallen down drunkenly the past evening.
She was unsettled by the incident, but said that she did not know many people in D.C. and continued to see Miller. She had lost her virginity to him and, at least for a brief window, he was someone she trusted.
“I couldn’t bring myself [at the time] to believe this had happened,” Sarah said. “It was me not wanting it to be true.”
A few days after the first incident, Sarah got word that she would no longer be participating in receSs. She was upset and disappointed and said that she called Miller to confide in him. She had not fully processed the first encounter, she said, and Miller was still someone she believed she could turn to in a time of stress and vulnerability.
They soon met at a college party, and left in a cab to head back to the apartment she had been renting with her roommates. When they arrived back at her home, they began to engage in consensual sex—but then Miller became violent again, Sarah said. She emphasized that she had not had more than two drinks that evening, and that her memory of the following “five-hour” ordeal was and is “crystal-clear.”
“We started to fool around, and very early in that, he put his hands around my throat and closed them, and I couldn’t breathe,” she recalled. “I was genuinely terrified and completely surprised. I understand now that this is for some people a kink, and I continue to believe it is [something] that should be entered into by consenting parties. But, as someone who had only begun having sexual encounters, like, about three months earlier, I had no awareness this was a kink, and I had certainly not entered into any agreement that I would be choked.
“I was fully paralyzed,” Sarah continued.
Sarah claimed that she was “choking audibly”—to the point that her roommates could hear what was happening and rushed over to knock on her bedroom door. Sarah said she then got up and walked to her door in a robe, and one of her roommates asked if everything was OK.
“I don’t know,” she responded, before shutting the door, “I’ll talk to you in the morning.”
“He pulled me back to bed and more things happened,” Sarah said. “He anally penetrated me without my consent, which I actually believe at that point I cried out, like, ‘No,’ and he didn’t continue to do that—but he also had a [beer] bottle with him the entire time. He used the bottle at one point to penetrate me without my consent.”
During the incident, Sarah said she “froze.” She says she “wasn’t prepared” for what had happened and that she “didn’t want to believe it was happening.”
Miller finally left her apartment around 5 a.m. The next morning, Sarah said she confided in her roommates about what had happened. One of those housemates, who is currently a Maryland resident and stay-at-home mom who asked not to be named in this story, confirmed as much to The Daily Beast.
“I knew T.J. was in her bedroom and I was in my bedroom, which was a wall away,” the source said. “My [other] roommate was in my bedroom with me and we heard a loud smacking noise, and we were concerned… The very next day when we talked to [Sarah] she was very upset, and… had said he had hit her in a very violent way.”
Katie Duffy, a former GW student and another of Sarah’s ex-housemates, said she had not realized that the “T.J.” from that night was the famed actor and comedian until informed by The Daily Beast. (She conceded she “had to Google him.”) But she recalled the incident much as Sarah had described it.
“One night, she had [Miller] back, and late at night… [a housemate and I] heard quite a lot of fighting [sounds] and banging, and loud, violent sounds [in the room next to us],” Duffy said. “So we knocked on the door of our housemate [Sarah], and asked if she was OK. She did indicate she was OK. Whatever response she gave, we felt we didn’t have to intervene further, at least at the time… Looking back, I wish we had done more to intervene, but we didn’t know what was going on… This is a girl I didn’t know very well, but it didn’t mean I didn’t have the power to go into that room, and remove her from that situation, and protect her. We did what we thought was the right thing at the time. It wasn’t enough.”
The next morning, Duffy recalled, Sarah came down to the small kitchen where other housemates were having coffee and breakfast. Her physical appearance raised alarm.
“She looked like she had been through a rough night—I recall seeing bruises [on Sarah],” Duffy said. “One roommate asked if she wanted to go to the police. Others offered to take her to the hospital, given how she looked.”
Sarah ultimately declined. Duffy moved out shortly thereafter, and said she hasn’t spoken to Sarah since, simply because “we didn’t know each other well.”
In the days and weeks that directly followed the alleged sexual assaults, Sarah’s friendship with Miller disintegrated completely. She said they met once more, days after that second night, to talk about what had happened; “T.J. said it was a ‘trust thing’… and that he thought I was into it,” Sarah recalled.
As they drifted apart, she asked mutual friends of Miller’s about the incident. According to Sarah and those close to her, the responses were fairly uniform, to the effect of, “Yeah, that’s just T.J.” The only other time she would see him over the next year was at a female comedy group show that she attended. “T.J. showed up to heckle, and I remember being so angry,” she said, “and had to leave.”
It would be almost a year—following much deliberations, counsel, and support from friends—before Sarah went to GW’s campus police to tell them what had happened. By then, Miller was in his last year at the university.
“I was not ready to process what was happening [the prior year], and I have spent a lot of time in my life apologizing for not having shouted ‘no,’ and for not having told my roommates to get him out of here,” Sarah said, explaining why she didn’t go to campus police a year earlier. “I was not ready to reconcile the events taking place with the person I had known. It was so disorienting and so physically traumatic.”
Like other female college students in similar circumstances, Sarah did not want to take the case to the cops since nearly a year had passed, and there was no remaining physical evidence. Instead, her allegations were handled by the “student court” at the university.
At this point, Sarah asked her housemate—the current Maryland mom who heard the “loud smacking noise”—if she would testify in the student court process, and she agreed.
“I testified in student court about the noise I had heard and how upset she was after the incident,” Sarah’s former housemate recalled to The Daily Beast. “T.J. was there with a lawyer during the student court proceeding.”
That housemate subsequently asked Duffy if she’d testified. “I was happy to,” Duffy said, recalling that she did not see Sarah at the student court during her testimony, but said that Miller, his father, and his attorney were there.
“I was asked why I hadn’t done anything [more] if I was so worried… and I said, well, the noises were loud enough that it did prompt us to ask what was wrong, so we did do something,” Duffy said. “I felt very uncomfortable, the way they were challenging me on it.”
Sarah said that the student court grilled her about “all my habits,” including what she had to drink, and how much, on both nights. She was asked if she had ever heard of erotic asphyxiation, and was asked if they had ever discussed the sexual practice, which she had not.
After a trial period that lasted a couple of weeks, Sarah said that the university told her that the issue had been resolved.
A GW spokesperson would only tell The Daily Beast that “because of federal privacy law, we are not able to provide information about current or former students’ education records,” in response to inquiries regarding a campus PD report or the student court proceedings. The federal law GW is referencing is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
GW did confirm, however, that Miller graduated in 2003, but did not comment on whether he “graduated early” due to any unique circumstance. Other knowledgeable sources told The Daily Beast that Miller was “expelled after he graduated”—an outcome that appeared to be an attempt by the university to satisfy both parties.
Sarah said she had lost acquaintances over her allegations, several of whom were her former comedy-troupe cohorts, most of whom ended up supporting Miller.
Four of these friends spoke to The Daily Beast, though none agreed to do so on the record. Each of these friends was in the college comedy troupe or matriculating at GW at the time. And all of them presented the same general portrait of Miller as a gregarious and generous person who “couldn’t have done this,” as several said.
“I’ve known T.J. since college, always known him to be a very caring person, and respectful, particularly toward women,” one friend said. “And he loves his wife very, very much.”
Another source, who testified in student court (via phone, post-graduation) on Miller’s behalf, said it was unimaginable that T.J. could do “anything like that.”
“I have never heard of another woman [who dated him in college] make any kind of allegation or insinuation that he was anything but a good guy,” the friend continued. Another friend insisted that Miller “was the type of person if you took him to a strip club, he would want to talk to the strippers, not hit on them.”
No one has accused Miller of hitting on strippers.
A source also produced a set of email exchanges between Miller and someone who dated Sarah later in life. The emails, one of which was presented without the conversation that preceded it, didn’t directly address the incident itself but instead showed both parties trying to come to a more amicable understanding. Sarah told The Daily Beast that she was simply under “some social pressure to be cool about this at the time, and didn't necessarily see myself as having any other option to resolution.”
One of Miller’s friends said he “believed [Sarah] knew she was making this up” to “intentionally and maliciously fabricate” a sexual-assault allegation. This friend could not offer any evidence to support such a claim, nor could another person, who wasn’t a friend of Miller’s but shared a similar view and testified on his behalf.
Kate and T.J. Miller made similar accusations in a statement provided weeks after first learning that The Daily Beast was reporting on these incidents.
“We met this woman over a decade ago while studying together in college, she attempted to break us up back then by plotting for over a year before making contradictory claims and accusations,” the Millers wrote.
“She was asked to leave our university comedy group because of worrisome and disturbing behavior, which angered her immensely, she then became fixated on our relationship, and began telling people around campus ‘I’m going to destroy them’ and ‘I’m going to ruin him,’” the statement continued.
When asked about these claims, Sarah’s responded, “Of course not.”
“He was a friend to me before [the incidents], and he had been there for me before that,” she said. “I didn’t want him in jail. I didn’t hate him. He was someone I cared about… I don’t want to mess up his life. But he behaved in a way towards me that I have to live with… [and] I don’t think it’s appropriate that I carry this by myself.”
If Sarah was eager to settle scores with Miller, she certainly didn’t show it. When The Daily Beast first started looking into this story, those close to her said for months that she had expressed no desire to come forward and was actively avoiding media inquiries. Only weeks after the advent of the #MeToo movement did that seem to change.
Miller soon left his alma mater and became a star in stand-up comedy. He then began appearing in major Hollywood productions, and landed a starring role on the critically lauded HBO show Silicon Valley. But despite the lack of public accusations since his time at George Washington, whispers about what happened in his college years followed him.
Four female comedians and bookers who spoke to The Daily Beast said that they had heard of the alleged sexual misconduct at GW. Some of these comics had heard about the accusations from Sarah directly, and have since warned women in stand-up comedy about Miller.
But some know about the sexual-assault allegations because Miller talked about them himself when confiding in friends and associates.
Four sources in the L.A. and Chicago comedy scenes—including JC Coccoli, a Los Angeles-based producer who briefly dated Miller in 2009—said they each first heard of the allegations because Miller had told them about them or referenced them in private conversation, or at small gatherings before or after shows. Miller did so in the context of vehemently denying “rumors” circulating in various comedy communities. Other times, he would crack jokes about punching a woman he knew in college, two other comics independently told The Daily Beast.
Maura Brown, a comedy festival organizer and publicist who used to work in L.A. and has since uprooted to Portland, Oregon, said she has also heard about the Miller allegation for years.
“Very commonly, women have warned each other [in entertainment] about him… and about what happened in college,” Brown told The Daily Beast.
Brown noted that starting in 2013, when she first heard about the allegations, she “never wanted to work with him [ever], and never wanted to work on the same projects as him,” and that “this convinced me to not try to book him or promote him in any way.”
Still, Miller, whose star is increasingly rising in Hollywood these days, continues to have friends in high places in the entertainment world.
Miller is set to appear in several major film projects, including an upcoming movie co-starring Kristen Stewart and another starring Ryan Reynolds. This year, HBO aired his stand-up special, and Comedy Central started airing The Gorburger Show, what Miller has previously told The Daily Beast is his “passion project” about a murderous alien talk-show host.
Sarah, his alleged victim, no longer lives in L.A., where she resettled not long after auditing at GW. She says she had a “wonderful experience doing improv and comedy” in the local comedy scene, and tried to put what happened with Miller behind her.
“I had to see him at my improv school [in L.A.], which I, shortly after, stopped going to, and see him at stand-up shows, and I stopped doing stand-up [eventually in L.A.],” Sarah said. “It doesn’t help that when I was living in L.A. I had to keep seeing his name on billboards, and on bus stops, and it just didn’t… stop.”
She added, “It is unfathomable to me that he doesn’t understand that he actually put me through something I have to live with, that I never would’ve chosen, that completely, completely set the tone for my sexual adult life, that I actively had to spend years and years… un-programming.”