Kristen Knight shares her story of sexual assault by Erick Morillo
Earlier this year, Erick Morillo was arrested and charged with sexual battery. Kristen Knight, the woman who brought the charges against him, has decided to speak out, bravely waving her right to anonymity. In this interview with Ellie Flynn, she shares her experiences in the hope it will create a safer space for survivors of sexual assault to come forward
Content warning: This article contains information relating to sexual assault.
Kristen Knight, the woman who brought rape charges against Erick Morillo earlier this year, has shared her experience publicly for the first time after bravely waiving her right to anonymity.
The 32-year-old DJ decided to speak out on The Dr. Oz Show yesterday after her identity was widely shared on social media, leading to abuse she says has had a “drastic” impact on her life.
In December 2019, Kristen and Morillo had both DJ’d at a private party in Miami, Florida, before she and another woman she had befriended that evening went back to his home. In a police report released at the time, it was stated that Kristen resisted sexual advances by Morillo, before becoming intoxicated and going to a room to sleep. She reported “waking up nude on the bed, with Mr Morillo standing on the side of the bed also nude”.
Morillo initially denied the allegations, but turned himself into police after a rape kit tested positive for his DNA. The DJ was arrested and charged with sexual battery on August 7th, but was found dead at his Miami home on September 1st, three days before he was due in court to face the charges. It has since been revealed Morillo died of a ketamine overdose.
The charges sparked a wave of similar reports. Also in September, in a report published by Mixmag, 10 women accused Morillo of rape, sexual assault and harassment, with testimonies spanning almost 30 years.
Kristen has decided to share her story with DJ Mag in the hope it will create a safer space for survivors of sexual assault to come forward.
“I first met Erick Morillo around five years ago. We knew of each other and had met a few times. We were represented by the same booking agent, he knows my boyfriend [Roger Sanchez] and I had opened for him at a few gigs,” Kristen explains.
Last December the two DJs played a gig together in Miami, where Kristen opened for Morillo. During the night, Kristen befriended a woman who was good friends with Morillo. When the event ended, the woman said she was going back to Morillo’s home and suggested that Kristen join them.
By this point it was around 9am. The woman noted that Morillo’s home had a swimming pool, so they could swim and relax in the pool after the gig. “I was like, okay, well it’s morning already – it’s not the middle of the night,” Kristen says. “I called Roger, who was in London at the time, and he spoke on the phone with Erick, who said ‘no worries, we’ll make sure she gets home safe’.”
During the night, Kristen says Morillo had been “very friendly, very charismatic”, and had been “blatantly acknowledging [she] was in a relationship with a good friend of his”, at one point describing her and Roger as “the best couple ever”. “It made me feel comfortable going back there, because he was like ‘I know both of them, they’re great people’,” Kristen says.
Kristen reports that after she arrived back at Morillo’s house the atmosphere drastically changed, describing Morillo as “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”. “He started questioning my motives, asking why I was there and if I had problems with my boyfriend,” Kristen says. “It was like getting caught in the web of a spider.”
Kristen says she brushed off Morillo’s advances and stayed for a while, having a beer and swimming in the pool. A short while later, she reports Morillo became inappropriate again – before grabbing her face with both hands and trying to kiss her. She got out of the pool, got dressed and told the other woman she was leaving. She booked an Uber and made her way outside to wait for it.
“I was outside, waiting for my Uber, and Erick came outside onto the street. He was naked, with a towel in his hand, crying and apologising,” she says. “I was genuinely concerned and I felt bad for him. I covered him up and walked him back to the outer perimeter of his house. He cried on my shoulder for like half an hour, telling me how difficult his life was and doing whatever he could to get sympathy. He managed to convince me to go back inside the house.
“Erick gets a lot of sympathy from people who say things like ‘he was troubled, he was a drug addict, he had problems’ – it was that same sympathy that put me in a position to become a victim of his. He used that.”
Kristen says that when she went back into the house the other woman was asleep on the couch. She and Erick DJ’d back-to-back for a while before he also fell asleep on the couch. “I went outside for a cigarette, and I remember looking up and thinking ‘I feel a lot more fucked up than I should be’. I’d only had two beers,” Kristen recalls.
She remembers feeling too tired to call an Uber, so she went to find a place to sleep in the house. “I walked upstairs and saw a door at the end of the hall. It was bright so I walked towards it,” she says. She made her way to the bed and didn't think she even managed to tuck herself in before “it was like lights out”.
The next thing she remembers is waking up a few hours later in a panic. She realised that she was naked. “I started to have flashbacks of Erick raping me,” Kristen says. “I was hyper aware of my body, like somebody had used my body without my consent.” She describes the feeling as “this hyper awareness of somebody being there, like somebody has broken into your house.”
Kristen sat up and saw Morillo in the room, also naked. “I started yelling at him and asking him why I was naked. He said nothing had happened. I freaked out, threw my clothes on and ran downstairs.”
Kristen managed to get out of the house and initially called an Uber because she “just wanted to get away”. She then decided to call the police instead to report the incident. “I thought about my daughter, and I thought ‘I don’t want to be that woman who 20 years from now says ‘oh yeah, that happened to me’,” she explains.
“I was so angry. As soon as I woke up I was livid. I’m still angry for numerous reasons. The first is how easy it was for him to do this to me. He just used me like I was some object.
“There was a complete disregard for me as a person, as a living human being,” she continues. “It didn’t matter to him. I was angry that he didn’t care about my relationship with my boyfriend, or that we were peers in the same industry or that we were represented by the same agency. He didn’t respect me as another human being, let alone another artist or someone he worked with.”
Kristen was taken to a rape crisis centre by police, where she did a rape kit that later tested positive for Morillo’s DNA.
Soon after the incident, “Erick started telling people in the industry and friends that I had called the police on him and was accusing him of rape, which was illegal in itself," she says. "People then started contacting me, telling me Erick had called them and told them I was pressing charges. I think he was trying to damage my reputation so people wouldn’t believe me.”
Kristen says her name was quickly leaked as the accuser as a result of this, leading to abuse online that was “incredibly traumatic” for her. “People were going on rants about my personality, about who I am. It was a very difficult few months.”
Kristen says she has also been contacted by a number of women who say they were also survivors of Morillo’s predatory sexual behaviour – and is “sad but not surprised” by this. “We do not live in a place that is safe for women to come forward as survivors of sexual assault,” Kristen says.
“We live in a world where everything is up for speculation. It’s important as a society that we give women support and respect when they come forward and say ‘this happened to me’, because when you deny women that, this is what happens. You get a serial rapist with a 30-year track record, whose victims are too afraid to come forward because they’re scared of being attacked, of being not believed, and even losing their careers, friendships and livelihoods.”