Warning: This story contains graphic descriptions of sexual assault
“December 12, 1997. I will never forget that fucking date,” says Jennifer Steele Mondello. “When he was raping me I could tell that he had done this before.”
Mondello, a former adult performer known as “Jennifer Steele,” is the author of the new book Adult Agency: A Memoir, which details her alleged assault by Ron Jeremy (real name: Ronald Jeremy Hyatt). The fallen porn icon is currently behind bars indicted on more than 30 counts of rape and sexual assault.
The Tampa-based mother recalled her 1997 alleged sexual assault to The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview. She says she met Jeremy at Stars Cabaret, a strip club in Beaverton, Oregon, in December 1997. Since she wanted to become an adult entertainer, her manager at the time introduced her to Jeremy, ensuring her that he was “safe.”
“Ron offered to help me meet some contacts to make girl-girl and solo scenes, and that I could stay at his place in Los Angeles,” says Mondello. “I clarified and he agreed that sex between us was not part of the deal, and I took great care to make sure he knew I wasn’t open to it.”
While in Los Angeles during what she claims was a “no-contact shoot” at Hustler Studios, Mondello alleges that Jeremy brought her into a bathroom because he was having a hard time getting an erection, and asked her to “bend over for a visual fluff” so he could get aroused, while promising that he wouldn’t touch her.
“As an exotic dancer, this wasn’t a stretch for me,” she maintains. “While I bent over, facing the other way, Ron broke my trust and entered me, and I pushed myself away and we continued the shoot. I was new and didn’t know who I could trust of all the people around me who were fawning over Ron. At the car, he convinced me it was a misunderstanding and that it wouldn’t happen again, and that I was safe staying at his place that night.”
Mondello didn’t have a place to stay, so she says she decided to take him at his word and accept his offer. But later that night at his apartment, she alleges that he assaulted her.
“He roused me out of my sleep to coerce me into letting him give me oral sex with the promise to leave me alone afterwards. He said I should appreciate everything he was doing for me,” she says. “When I refused sex, he raped me. He raped me in my mouth, my vagina, and anally. The trauma created memories of watching myself being raped from another side of the room.”
“There were some moments I wondered if he planned to kill me, because how would a celebrity get away with doing this to people if I remained alive?” she adds. “He stopped when he saw tears and blood, and at that point I was relieved I would live. I took a shower, and I wanted to stay in that shower forever. I lost trust in myself and my intuition after that.” (Jeremy’s attorney declined to comment on his behalf for this story.)
Mondello shared with The Daily Beast that she received mental health counseling for trauma via the Pineapple Support Society, a therapy support service for those in the adult industry. Founder and CEO of Pineapple Support Society, Leya Tanit, confirmed that Mondello had therapy sessions through their network.
While she confided in her immediate family, Mondello was hesitant to come forward because the cultural atmosphere of 1997 was very different to today regarding sexual-assault allegations.
“He was a celebrity. It was 1997. It would have ended up all over the news stations, and I had seen what happened to Lorena Bobbitt. I had seen what happened to Anita Hill. The last thing I wanted was to, you know, accuse a celebrity of rape—especially a porn star. It would have been a joke how I saw it. I asked one of the cops if it would be enough to press charges if I had bruising and DNA and he said considering I was a stripper and he was who he was, they wouldn’t press charges based on that.”
So, Mondello, worried that nobody would believe a sex worker, decided not to file a police report at the time of her alleged rape.
“I figured if I told people something would get done within the [adult] industry, and I didn’t want to be the person known for making the industry look bad,” she says. “I thought the industry would take care of it internally.”
But nothing was done, and Jeremy kept being cast in adult industry productions and booking appearances at strip clubs.
Gene Ross, former executive editor of adult industry company AVN Publications, wrote the foreword to Mondello’s memoir. He says he was one of the first people to publish sexual-misconduct allegations against Jeremy back in 2004.
“We’re talking 18 years and he didn’t get prosecuted until 2020, so this story was sitting for 16 years. Nobody wanted to believe it,” says Ross. “I wrote the story in 2004, and everybody kept saying, ‘Oh, that couldn’t be, oh, that couldn’t be. I kept stirring the pot on this thing and Jeremy would call me totally insane denying everything, saying he was going to sue me. I must have talked to at least six or seven different women… He’s like that guy in the bar who wouldn’t take rejection. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. I wasn’t a witness to what was going on between [Jeremy and Mondello], but her story fit the mold of all the other women I talked to.”
While her alleged sexual assault occurred in 1997, it was not until 2020 when she was interviewed by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.
“I felt so good to tell somebody official who cared,” says Mondello. “I can’t even describe the sense of full-circle. I was not one of the charging victims. I was one of the victim witnesses. There was a certain M.O. I would be there to back up that he [Jeremy] had been doing it since at least 1997. They called me a victim witness, historical witness, prior bad acts witness.”
The Daily Beast obtained and reviewed an email between Mondello and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office confirming they’d spoken with one another. When reached for comment, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office was unable to provide comment due to the fact that the case against Jeremy is still pending.
Jeremy’s trial is presently suspended as his lawyers argue that the 69-year-old is mentally incompetent to stand trial.
“I think that Ron is sick, and I think that he was sick when this happened,” says Mondello. “I don’t wish ill-will on him, but I’m glad that he’s locked up. It’s a big deal that it actually came to light that he was doing this because for a long time I just had people turn their backs on me. That sucked. So now, it’s more about me looking at the industry and seeing if they’re doing anything to help talent have some kind of a voice when these things do come up. These types of things are happening today, and there’s nothing the industry has done to change things, not that I can see.”
Mondello is in the process of creating a free website to be available next year, SturdyStairs.com, that allows adult performers to anonymously share their experiences after each scene on set. She hopes to turn it into a nonprofit.
“That way they can start seeing patterns at different companies... which companies are behaving and which companies are a problem in certain areas,” explains Mondello. “And then the talent can decide for themselves who they want to work for.”