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Ex-dancers allege drugging, sexual assault in lawsuit against Atlanta’s Cheetah Strip Club

January 12, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Ex-dancers allege drugging, sexual assault in lawsuit against Atlanta’s Cheetah Strip Club

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The Cheetah Strip Club in Atlanta advertises itself as the “most renowned gentleman’s club” in the Southeastern U.S., where businessmen, professionals, and tourists alike have experienced over four decades of bare bottoms and risqué dancing.

However, the strip club is also where, according to six former Cheetah dancers, strippers have been “drugged, assaulted, and in one case, raped” by customers. Club-goers are often led by the belief that they should receive sexual services in the VIP room for the right price, a report by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed.

The dancers – all of whom worked as “CheetahGirls” within the last five years – told the newspaper of a method involving “floormen” who acted as channels between women willing to violate sexual contact rules for bookings in the club’s VIP area. In other words, customers paid the dancers directly before they gave a percentage of their fee to the floormen.

The women claimed that they were coerced to violate club rules in the plot, which profited those involved thousands of dollars. Additionally, dancers who didn’t wish to be involved were kept out of the VIP rooms.

One of the former dancers, Alison Valente, alleges that she was improperly terminated from her position last year after protesting about the system. In one of two civil suits in federal court, Valente asserts that she resisted joining the group of women known as the “F Girls” because they engaged in sexual acts in the VIP rooms. After refusing to pay kickbacks to floormen, Valente claims she was abused and “drugged into near unconsciousness” for not participating in the scheme.

The Cheetah, located in Midtown, has been one of Atlanta’s marquee adult entertainment clubs for four decades.

The lawsuits, filed by Valente and another former Cheetah Strip Club dancer, accuse club management and bouncers of operating a “sophisticated organized crime syndicate” that eventually became an “integral part” of the club’s business, Channel 2 Action News reported.

One former dancer told the newspaper that she was raped by a customer in the VIP room while working during the NCAA basketball tournament in 2013.

She stated that the client suddenly pulled down his pants and penetrated her as she danced with her back toward him.

After battling the man off of her, the anonymous dancer told the newspaper she went to the “house mom” at the club – a female administrator who coordinates schedules and other tasks – and reported the assault.

A customer tips a dancer at The Cheetah, a strip club in Atlanta, in 1996. (Zuma Press)

Instead of reporting the rape to authorities, the house mom urged the woman “to move on,” and ordered a tray of tequila shots before the dancer was brought to the penthouse.

“The idea of calling the cops is something I suggested, and they just started talking about something else,” the woman said. “She just encouraged me to move on and not make a big deal.”

Kevin Ward, a lawyer representing the club, verified an “apparently unwanted sexual incident during March Madness 2013,” declaring in a statement that the woman and the customer had a “personal and intimate” association.

The woman told the house mom but “didn’t want to contact police,” Ward said to the Journal-Constitution.

Alison Valente, a former Cheetah exotic dancer, has sued the club for systematic physical and sexual abuse she says she sustained as part of a pattern of criminal behavior associated with the club’s private VIP rooms. The club has counter-sued Valente for slander and denied the allegations. KENT D. JOHNSON / AJC

However, the woman claimed that she had no relationship with the alleged attacker before or after the incident and didn’t even know his name.

Another former dancer at the Cheetah Strip Club said sexual assault frequently occurred inside the VIP rooms. She claimed that a customer inserted his finger into her vagina during one incident and then reported her to a floorman, who told her to give back the man’s money.

“I could have called the cops and gotten him in big trouble,” she said, adding she didn’t contact authorities because her bosses pressured employees not to involve the police.

Lawyers for the club’s owner, Bill Hagood, have rejected the claims, describing them as “vindictive, discharged strippers,” some of whom may have been fired for the same behavior that they now argue was tolerated by their managers.

A dancer entertains customers at The Cheetah in Atlanta in 1996. (Zuma Press)

The club also dismissed Valente’s claims in a countersuit, the newspaper reported and is also counter-suing the woman for defamation and slander. The club asserts that Valente’s claims “wrongfully depicted” the establishment and was made to harm its reputation as a “sophisticated, upscale” place for adult enjoyment.

Lawyer Steve Sadow told the newspaper that club directors “never” received any claims of illegal behavior, characterizing the women’s assertions as an attempt to extort money.

“The Cheetah Strip Club has been open for nearly 40 years,” Sadow said. “It has served customers and visitors in Atlanta during the entire time, and there has never been a claim of any illegal conduct against the club. The club will not stand by and allow its excellent reputation to be besmirched.”

Valente’s lawyer described Sadow’s statement as victim shaming.

“As we have seen lately, it takes multiple victims coming into the light before any allegations of abuse are taken seriously,” Jim McDonough, her attorney, told the paper.

Since the Cheetah Strip club was contacted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News, they have made its VIP rooms less private and prohibited dancers from tipping floormen.

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